Well, the ovens have been turned off, the cookies sheets are tucked back in their cupboards, and the bakers are all nestled snug in their sugar comas after putting the Pillsbury Dough boy to shame in the First Annual MercerMe Cut Throat Cookie Exchange.

And, for anyone who may be wondering, it was a raging success. Nineteen bakers gathered at the home of Lucia and Vance Smith and showed out with a spectacular array of homemade delectables!  Cookies of varying flavors, sizes, colors and textures — and all of them were delicious proving that Mercer County is the sweetest spot in New Jersey.  From Katja Lewis’ “Ultimate Christmas Cookies,” to Sara Ohls’s “Chocolate Covered Cherry Shortbread Kisses,” to Jennifer Elliot’s “Chocolate Krinkles,” there was enough sugar floating around to keep any dental hygienist busy for weeks. Jennifer Michelson made some absolutely stellar “Homemade Strawberry Jam Thumbprint Cookies,” using eggs from her own chickens and jam she made. She was bragging.

“This was a really wonderful event,” unabashedly gushed Beverly Mills whose “Cranberry Toasted Pecan Crunch Cookies with Brown Butter Glaze” won this year’s Best Tasting Cookie.  Showoff.  

Echoing Bev Mills comments, Best Looking Cookie winner, Kurt Allerslev stated, “This is a really great event. Look at everyone — they’re really having a good time.”

No one could have imagined it would have been this much fun.  “I had the pleasure of participating in the cookie event sponsored by MercerMe,” shared Lori Scott Farina. “I met a lot of great people and had a fun time.  Needless to say, all the cookies I brought home are now gone!”


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Most Creative went to Lisa Wollf’s “Chocolate Macarons.” The Grand Prize (Overall Cookie) status went to Theresa Miller’s “Amaretti Almond Cookies with Dark Chocolate and Sour Cherries.”  She also took home a crown and a gift certificate to Hand and Stone in Princeton for a much deserved back massage or facial.

Great big thanks to all the bakers who made the First Annual MercerMe Cut Throat Cookie Exchange a fantastic success! You all are absolutely amazing! And a huge thank you to our gracious hosts, Lucia Smith and Vance Smith and family, who opened their home and plied us with snacks and libations all night long. A few bakers were missed but we’ll get you next year!

Big shout out publisher and editor extraordinaire, Mary Galioto and her husband Ryan Kennedy, whose commitment to our community and our county is endless and for always thinking of all of us as beings of great value by investing time, effort, finances and love so we all can be a bit better tomorrow that we were today. Support MercerMe as they unwavering support all of us.

For anyone who is interested in making the winning cookie, here is the recipe:


Amaretti with Chocolate and Sour Cherries

(based upon Almond Cloud Cookie recipe from http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/almond-cloud-cookies-recipe)


10 ounces almond paste*

1 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large egg whites, lightly beaten

1/4 teaspoon gluten-free almond extract

1/8 teaspoon extra-strong bitter almond oil*

1/2 cup unsweetened dried tart cherries, firmly packed*

1/2 cup chocolate chips

Confectioners’ sugar, for topping


*see ingredient comments/sources at bottom



Cut each dried cherry into 3 or 4 pieces. Spread cherries on a plate and place in freezer until needed.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Blend the almond paste, sugar, and salt until the mixture becomes uniformly crumbly; this is best done in a stand mixer.

In a separate bowl add the flavorings to the egg whites and beat slightly.

Add the egg whites gradually to the cookie dough, while mixing, to make a smooth paste.

Use a wooden spoon to fold and stir the chocolate and cherries into the cookie dough until evenly distributed.

Scoop the dough by heaping tablespoons onto the prepared pans.

Use a tea strainer (or similar fine mesh strainer) to sprinkle the cookies heavily with confectioners’ sugar, then use a measuring spoon to press a slight indentation into the center of each cookie.

Bake the cookies for 20 to 25 minutes, until they’re brown around the edges. Remove them from the oven, and let them cool right on the pan.

Yield: 21 cookies.


Ingredient Comment/Sources:

extra-strong bitter almond oil  http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/items/bitter-almond-oil-1-oz

dried sour cherries


almond paste

Brands do vary by water and sugar content. Love’n Bake, Odense and Solo brands have worked well for me.

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Renata Barnes
Renata is the author of "The Taste Chase," MercerMe's own food review column. She's a lover of all things poetic, colorful, funny and inspiring. A native New Yorker, who grew up in Hopewell Valley and spent the better part of her adulthood back in NYC, currently finds herself in a growing love relationship with “the Valley”. Latin food, Indian saris and mehndi, French perfume, African music, Middle Eastern spices, South American jewels, Asian fabrics and anything from just about any island (maybe not Riker’s Island) are things that remind her to go out and taste the world, live passionately and always wear deodorant. The mother of one rambunctious boy and the wife of a mellow fellow, Renata tries to put her too many years of university and her film and writing talents to good use here in NJ. “I’ve spent too much time trying to fit in some where when I probably belong everywhere. That slow revelation has been freeing.”


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