The holidays are the season for amateur baking—bags of flour and blocks of butter flying off the shelves, cookie tins being given to all and sundry. Some people even approach it as a competitive sport, with Christmas cookie competitions taking place throughout the land. Go behind the scenes of one such competition with Anna of Cookie Madness, a competitive baker turned contest judge. Here she writes for the blog

When I arrived … over 40 people had already brought in their freshly made plates of cookies. … I stayed out of the way and tried not to speak with anyone turning in cookies. … My category, ‘Other’ had about 25 entries. I would be judging on taste, texture and appearance – ranking each cookie 1-10 based on each of those criteria.

With hundreds of cookies to choose from, what makes the cut? The cookie that won Anna’s “Other” division also won the overall contest.

In the end, I chose the chewy chai meringue cookie. It had a simple look to it, but when you bit into it, the crust shattered to reveal a rich, soft chewy chai flavored white chocolate filling. While not extremely showy, it stood out from the other cookies and tasted great. It was the meringue cookie’s taste and the fact that I wanted to gobble down the whole cookie that made me choose it over all the others.

Here’s the winning recipe for Alison’s Chewy Chai Meringue Cookies.

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