Northshire crowns area's best cookie baker

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MANCHESTER — A solitary peanut butter snickers cookie sat on a plate at the back of the table. Adjacent to the plates of other cookies, the cookie, made by Necole Zemp, was a visual representation of a winner.

Zemp took home the People's Choice Award and tied for first place, along with Fran Tobia, according to the panel of three judges presiding over the Second Annual Cookie Bake-Off Competition at the Northshire Bookstore on Saturday. The contest was a benefit for the Community Food Cupboard.

Zemp said a friend made the cookies for her 10 years ago and were so delicious that she begged him for the recipe.

"These cookies have always been well-received when I have baked them in the past. I think they are great and I thought they would be liked," Zemp said. "I was very glad to hear the cookies were enjoyed. I was overwhelmed by the response and grateful I had a chance to participate."

Tobia's chocolate gingerbread cookie was a recipe featured in one of Martha Stewart's magazines and cookbooks. It's one of her favorites, Tobia said.

"This is my second year doing this and last year I made the same cookie and I had won," said Tobia. "I've been making it for over 20 years and giving it as Christmas gifts and people always ask for it because it's so good."

Oatmeal toffee cookies baked by Amanda Bourque took second place with the panel of judges, which included Amy Chamberlain from The Perfect Wife and Tavern, Jacki Baker of Mother Myrick's Confectionery, and Patti Fortuna-Stannard from Fortuna's Sausage & Italian Market. Jaymie Levine's chocolate dipped potato chip cookies took third place in the contest.

The original thought behind the competition, according to Jonathan Fine, the receiving manager and unofficial wellness director at Northshire Bookstore, was for the bookstore to do more to involve the community with an event that wasn't necessarily book related.

"It's just great to get the community out," Fine said. "To have the customers just involved in something that's good for the community; specifically for the group that helps people in need, the Food Cupboard."

Contestants paid a $20 entry fee and had to provide enough samples for at least 80 people for a shot to be named "Northshire's Best Baker" and to receive one of the several prizes being awarded. The prizes included a $75 gift certificate to Northshire Bookstore, a copy of a book on baking cookies, a gift card to Mother Myrick's, a gift card to the Dorset Union Store, and a gift card to Fortuna's.

The "seed" for the idea, Fine said, came from a benefit chili cook-off held at The Equinox Resort. The bookstore had done a few things to help The Community Food Cupboard in the past, and Fine said holding the event with all proceeds to benefit the organization seemed appropriate.

"It felt like a natural fit," Fine said. "They were kind of in the back of my mind as a good charity ... that was obviously in need of all the help they could get and you know the food tie in, obviously, makes it a perfect fit."

Fine said he first brought up this year's contest three months ago with Dafydd Wood, the events manager at Northshire Bookstore, and the date for the event was set in September.

"It's definitely a Saturday afternoon kind of event," Fine said. "It's a good time of year for it. There's definitely a chill in the air and people are looking for something festive to do in front of the holidays. And when it gets cold out you want to eat cookies."

Pizzelles by Nancy Smith, molasses cookies by Sarah Witter, cherry and dark chocolate oatmeal cookies by Erica Lin, and cherry almond chocolate biscotti cookies by Barbara Petra were the other entries in the competition.


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