Finalist: Orange-Almond Melting Moments
Baker: Patrice Johnson of Roseville.
Record-setter: For the first time in the contest’s 11-year history, a previous winner (for 2012’s Royal Sweets With Chocolate- Balsamic Sauce) returns to the top five. “I had so much fun last year that I thought, ‘I’ll try it again,’ ” Johnson said with a laugh.
Winner’s circle: When she won last year, Johnson was inundated with “When will you bake some for me?” requests. Popularity has its price, right? “I love that cookie so much, and I’m so happy that it got so much attention,” she said. “But if I never see another one of them again, that’ll be OK.”
An academic beginning: While doing research on Swedish immigrant food traditions, Johnson was told by an elderly woman that she had to try Melting Moments. “I learned that these cookies used to be as popular as chocolate chip cookies are today,” Johnson wrote in her entry. One slight hitch, however. “I haven’t found any evidence that it’s a Scandinavian cookie,” she said with a laugh. “But I love that it’s so simple, just five ingredients — and you always have them on hand — and some kind of flavoring.”
State Fair failure: After tinkering with several versions of the recipe, she decided to enter a lemon-basil variation — her husband’s favorite flavor combination — in the Minnesota State Fair’s baking competition. The humid weather had other ideas, however, and after that failure she went back to the drawing board, this time drawing inspiration from the Danish pastries her mother made on Christmas morning. Bingo.
Mixing it up: Johnson extols the delicious possibilities that come from replacing the almond extract with Milwaukee-made Bittercube Cherry Bark Vanilla Bitters (www.bittercube.com). “Their products are wonderful additions to a lot of different baking ideas,” she said.
Critical feedback: Judges loved the cookie’s tender, delicate texture (“Yep, they really do melt,” said one) and pleasing citrus bite, while others raved over the chipotle pepper’s gentle, sneaks-up-on-you heat (“Wait for it,” said one). “I was originally going to put Sriracha in it,” Johnson said. “But then my daughter said, ‘Sriracha is over.’ ”