Winning Isn't Everything: Melt Aways

I consider the fact that a recipe has won the Chicago Tribune's annual holiday cookie contest as a big stamp of approval. That's why I decided to try Chris Merrill's 1989 winning recipe for "Melt Aways," even though they looked like a basic Russian tea cake or Mexican wedding cake.

It only take a few minutes to make the cookie batter and bake the cookies: you beat softened butter with powdered sugar and vanilla; add sifted cake flour and salt; and stir in chopped pecans. I used a #50 scoop to form the dough into uniform semispheres. You're supposed to bake the cookies for a brief period (seven minutes) at very high temperature (450 degrees), but I got better results by baking the cookies for a slightly longer time (ten minutes) at a lower temperature (425 degrees). I dusted the cookies with powdered sugar while they were still warm.
This was a tender, buttery, decadent cookie. I liked the delicate texture and the richness from the pecans. That said, the cookie was nothing out of the ordinary and tasted like a run-of-the-mill Mexican wedding cake. As was the case with the spice cookie that won the Tribune's contest in 1995, I'm at a loss to understand how this garden variety cookie beat out so many other entries (more than 500!) to come out on top. I can only speculate that the 1989 contest judges happened to love Mexican wedding cakes, because an almost identical recipe ("Dottie's Mexican Wedding Cookies") earned an honorable mention the same year that these Melt Aways won top honors.

To be clear, these cookies were very good and my tasters really enjoyed them. With a melt-in-your-mouth texture, the cookies certainly live up to their name -- but just not my super high expectations!

Recipe: "Melt Aways" by Chris Merrill, from Holiday Cookies: Prize-Winning Family Recipe from the Chicago Tribune for Cookies, Bars, Brownies and More, recipe available here at the Chicago Tribune


Louise said…
I agree that it's really odd that this cookie would come out on top. My mom was baking Russian Tea Cookies back in the '50's. And I think, at least in my family, they've been made at Christmas ever since.
Anonymous said…
Thank you for always trying new recipes. Love your comments and advice. Really appreciate and enjoy reading your blog! Have a great day! :)