Grandma’s Greatest Cookie Contest

I’ll say this from the start: I was willing to eat 50 cookies if that’s what the gig required.

And walking among the tables of wares at Grandma’s Cookie Contest at Independence Village in Winston-Salem — five of them, larded down with chocolate-chip goodness, roasted-nut crannies, shavedcoconut nests, stacked on doilies, placed in muffin cups, dusted with sprinkles, wrapped in colorful baggies an tied with curly ribbon — I began to actually relish the idea.

I mean, who doesn’t love cookies? Especially when they’re baked by grandmas.

Of course, you don’t have to be a grandma to enter the contest, nor do you have to reside in the Independence Village senior living complex. But you do have to be at least 55 years old. And if you want to win this thing, you better bring your A game.

I perused the offerings with some of the other judges, which included Winston-Salem Journal food writer Michael Hastings, WXII meteorologist Lanie Pope and Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines, who quipped, “I may have to do an extra three miles today.” The gallery filled with residents of Independence Village, supporters of the cookie makers and fans of baked goods in general.

Among the early favorites of mine were the toffee-chip cookies, the almond chocolate-chip, which seemed the most exciting variation on the classic theme, and brownie thins, which are exactly what they sound like.

But with so many cookies in competition, 41, the nine judges sitting at three tables did not have to taste each and every one.

I tasted pecan tassies, double-chocolate-chip, a few versions based on pecan pie — one in a bar and two with tiny pie crusts — and a macaroon laced with miniature M&Ms.

Each table of judges chose its Top 2 cookies, and we adjourned to a side room for final judging. There were discussions of cookies versus candy, the relative importance of packaging and the possibility of choosing a winning cookie that didn’t have chocolate in it.

That last debate led to the eventual crowing of the winner, who was most certainly not a grandma.

Steve Jokinen, 61, says he got his white-chocolate cranberry cookie recipe from the New York Times. “I kind of bastardized it,” he said. “It normally has chocolate in it.”

He says he made his first batch five years ago for his daughter while she was at Amherst College. He knew that were good when show wrote back asking for more.

His secret: “I let the dough sit for 36 hours,” he says.

“And I sprinkle a little sea salt on top.”