Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Story of Sunset's Winning Coconut-Cranberry Chews

If you're looking for a new holiday cookie to make, consider these addictive delights. Flavored by butter, coconut, cranberry, and orange zest, this recipe makes a chewy, citrusy cookie that smells irresistible right out of the oven, with a delectable taste to match.

I first discovered this recipe at a Sunset celebration weekend held at company headquarters in my hometown of Menlo Park. Every attendee at the annual event received a little cookbook with recipes from their readers. This one was contributed by Nancy Jamison from nearby Woodside, the grand prize winner in a cookie recipe contest held ten years ago. 

These buttery beauties make a winning holiday dessert because of the unexpected combination of flavors, crimson cranberries, and pretty white color. It's the kind of cookie that always generates recipe requests. They make an elegant homemade gift packaged up in clear cellophane with a colorful ribbon. Even people who don't like coconut may swoon over these cookies, because it adds more in texture than flavor.

With the wonders of Google, I easily tracked down Nancy in nearby Woodside. She replied just as quickly, and from there I learned the story behind the cookies. Nancy created this recipe over about a month's time, continually refining and testing before submitting it to Sunset's contest. Sunset awarded Nancy the grand prize winner, but she was surprised that Sunset adjusted the original recipe when they printed it in their December 2001 issue. 

Nancy strongly feels her original recipe is better, supported by blind taste test results with friends. The differences? She originally included twice as much salt (1/2 t), the additions of baking soda (1 t) and orange oil (3/4 t), less orange zest (2 t), and additional fat in the form of Crisco shortening (1/2 cup).

The Sunset printed recipe batter does have a somewhat dry consistency at first, but as the recipe states, "Don't worry: The mixture looks too dry, but it will come together as a dough." I found that it does, especially if the butter is halfway melted in the microwave instead of just room temperature. The cookies don't taste dry in my opinion. But if you prefer an even richer cookie, try Nancy's original version and see what you think. Either way, you can't lose with this winner.

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