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By Terri Hahn

Award-Winning Cookies


September 1, 2022

Are you ready for the State Fair? It's set to start Friday, Aug. 26, in Grand Island and runs through Labor Day.

I've been able to make it the past two years - not sure about this year, although I'm going to make it work.

The 2020 fair was unlike any other I'd previously attended thanks to the pandemic. No carnival, no concerts, a reduced number of vendors, and everything spread out, made the fairgrounds seem a little empty. Last year was better although I still couldn't find my favorite food vendor - and my favorite fried dill pickles. (By the way, now that I've bought an air fryer I'm going to learn how to make my own; we'll see how well that goes in an upcoming column.)

But one thing I did locate was the 1868 Foundation Gift Shop that netted me my favorite find of the Fair: A cookbook with all the winning recipes from the 2019 fair including breads, cookies, cakes candy, pies and more.

For someone who likes to collect cookbooks, it was like striking gold. A quick perusal gave me a list of several cookie recipes I can't wait to try this fall.

The first recipe for Caramel Bars, from Bonnie Einspahr of Hastings, took first place in "Bar Cookies - Any Other." The second, Salted Caramel Crunch Cookies from Dawn Wardyn of Grand Island, earned third place in "Molded Cookies - Any Other." The final recipe I'm sharing is for Double Chocolate Crumble Bars from Mary Wentzlaff of Grand Island. It took first place in "Bar Cookies - Layered." All sound delicious!

Caramel Bars

2 cups flour

3/4 firmly packed brown sugar

1 egg, beaten

1 cup cold butter

3/4 cup chopped nuts

30 caramels

1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

Combine flour and sugar. Cut in 1/2 cup cold butter until crumbly. Add egg; stir in nuts.

Reserve 2 cups of crumb mixture. Press remainder firmly in bottom of greased 13-by-9-inch baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes in 350-degree F oven.

Meanwhile, in a heavy pan over low heat (or double boiler over hot water), melt caramels with sweetened condensed milk and remaining 1/2 cup of butter. Pour over prepared crust. Top with reserved crumb mixture. Bake for an additional 20 minutes at 350 degrees or until bubbly.

Cool and cut into bars. Store at room temperature, loosely covered.

Bonnie Einspahr, Hastings

1st place, Bar Cookies - Any Other

2019 Nebraska State Fair

Salted Caramel Crunch Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup toffee bits

1 cup caramel bits

1 cup chopped pecans

Sea salt (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, both sugars, baking soda, cornstarch, salt and cinnamon. Add butter, combine with a spatula or hand-held mixer until crumbly.

Add eggs and vanilla; beat until well combined. Fold in toffee chips, caramel bits and pecans.

Roll 2 heaping tablespoons of cookie dough into a ball and place on prepared baking sheet, leaving 2 inches per cookie for spreading. Repeat with remaining dough.

Bake for 12 minutes or until the sides of the cookies are set. Remove from oven and sprinkle with sea salt to taste.

Let cookies cool for 10 minutes on baking sheet. Enjoy warm or allow to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Dawn Wardyn, Grand Island

3rd place, Molded Cookies - Any Other

2019 Nebraska State Fair

Double Chocolate Crumble Bars

1/2 cup butter

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup chopped pecans

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups miniature marshmallows

1 package (6 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate pieces

1 cup peanut butter

1-1/2 cups Rice Krispies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Thoroughly grease a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan and set aside.

Cream the butter and vanilla; beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir together flour, chopped nuts, cocoa, baking powder and salt; stir into egg mixture.

Spread in bottom of prepared pan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until bars test done. Sprinkle marshmallows evenly over top and bake for an additional 3 minutes. Cool.

In small saucepan, combine chocolate pieces and peanut butter; cook and stir over low heat until chocolate is melted. Stir in cereal and spread mixture over top of cooled bars. Chill; cut into bars. Store in refrigerator.

Mary Wentzlaff, Grand Island

1st place, Bar Cookies - Layered

2019 Nebraska State Fair


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