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Harvesting Alaska: Fair competition brings out generations of bakers

By Heather Hintze 10:25 AM August 29, 2016
PALMER –

As the deadline neared for the baked goods competition at the 80th annual Alaska State Fair, dozens of people filled Hoskins Hall, eager to drop off their entries.

Among them, Teresa Taylor and her box full of goodies: several plates of cookies and a bag of peanut brittle.

She and her daughter Heidi Taylor enter in different categories every year so they don’t have to compete against each other.

The two have more than a dozen entries combined.

“Let’s see, what did I make?” Teresa had to think for a second. “Snickerdoodles, molasses cookies, traditional chocolate chip, habanero-peanut brittle, Hawaiian tea cookies and almond short bread thumb prints. I think that’s it.”

Heidi’s list is almost as extensive.

“Peanut goody bars, chocolate pecan bars,” she listed off. “Peppermint meltaways, lemon meltaways and peanut butter oatmeal cookies.”

Teresa’s mother-in-law, Alice Taylor, taught her how to bake when Teresa married into the family. Alice handed down her prize-winning molasses cookie recipe that’s also a family favorite, too.

Hannah, Teresa’s oldest daughter, got married last June and wanted a cookie bar instead of a wedding cake.

“Because grandma was not able to make it to the wedding, she wanted grandma’s molasses cookie there to honor grandma,” Teresa said. “It was pretty sweet. So I made 1,600 cookies for her wedding.”

Heidi is confident her mom’s cookie will bring home the blue ribbon again, maybe even a second grand champion award.

“She will win. It’s not really a competition. It’s the best recipe, grandma’s recipe,” Heidi said.

So how did the Taylor molasses cookies stack up against the competition?

Long-time judge John Vinduska knows what makes a good cookie.

“Taste is the obvious thing. But the effort they put into it. You don’t want to see a burnt one or an undercooked one,” he explained.

He had an entire table full to taste but started with the molasses division with six entries.

“This one that looks good also tastes super,” he pointed to the fourth plate.

Those were Teresa’s cookies; Grandma Alice’s recipe goes home a winner again.

Teresa said that’s just one reason why she’ll keep coming back.

“My mother-in-law is not with us, she passed away in October so I plan on carrying that tradition as long as I’m here and if I’m not here my girls will do it — or my boys even,” she said.

There’s another opportunity to enter the baked goods competition. The second round of entries are due on Wednesday, Aug. 31 by 9 p.m.

Teresa said she’s not sure what she’ll make for the second round, but you can count on molasses cookies making another showing.

“It’s what we do,” she laughed. “Friends have said your house at fair time is better than Christmas. This is what we do.”

KTVA 11′s Heather Hintze can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.

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