OLD TOWN — Doris King of Old Town knew her raspberry walnut shortbread cookies were good.
She found the recipe on the back of a bag of walnuts earlier this year. It looked good. She tried it. And that’s the recipe — after being tweaked with a few minor Doris King alterations — that the 70-year-old grandmother entered in the Bangor State Fair’s cookie contest last August, winning her one of 20 national slots in the Land O’Lakes sponsored Butter Best Cookie Contest.
But King wasn’t expecting a call the week before Christmas, telling her she had won the national contest, beating out 19 other state-fair-winning cookie recipes.
“I really didn’t think I was going to win,” she said last Sunday while seated at her kitchen table. “I had just entered the contest for the heck of it.”
According to Julie Kruse, product manager in the Land O’Lakes test kitchen in the Minnesota corporate offices, all recipes were judged on taste, appearance, originality and simplicity. King’s creation was a favorite because of the taste, “the combination of the raspberry and butter crust, brown sugar, gives [the recipe] a good flavor, plus it was easy and quite versatile.”
The recipe will probably end up in a nationally distributed cookbook or brochure, Kruse said.
King began entering recipes and crafts in local fairs as a hobby 30 years ago after a neighbor urged her to. Now such participation has become a family affair, as she is joined by her daughter, Pamela Gilks, and her grandchildren, Cody, 9, and Kelly, 13, with their own recipes and crafts. Gilks won last year’s Bangor State Fair cookie contest with her recipe for Russian teacakes.
Over the years, King has accumulated between 30 and 40 ribbons. One of her more popular recipes — chocolate fudge with peanut butter and nuts — alone has garnered quite a few of those ribbons, she said.
By winning the only national prize in the amateur contest, King is entitled to a year’s supply of Land O’Lakes products, including butter, cheese and sour cream. Unfortunately, for health reasons, family members are going to reap those rewards. “I’m not supposed to have all that good stuff,” she said.
Land O’Lakes also awarded her a $500 cash prize, a cookie storage tin and an apron.
King said that she never formally studied the culinary arts, instead learning from her almost 70 years of direct, hands-on experience.
“I’ve always cooked, ever since I can remember,” she said.
The second oldest of seven children said she used to be in charge of cooking breakfast for her large family when she was young, helping her mother before heading off to school.
She was introduced to the pastry world while working as a pastry cook’s helper about 50 years ago. But that didn’t actually give her too much experience working with food she said. “I probably waited on [the pastry cook].”
King — an avid collector of recipes — clips any recipe that sounds tasty. The trick is cooking them up on her old and oftentimes temperamental antique gas stove.
For the Bangor State Fair contest, King sifted through her basket full of collected recipes, choosing the shortbread recipe because it was a favorite of her daughter’s. Then the red-haired grandmother focused on her entry’s presentation, wrapping each raspberry walnut shortbread cookie with curled ribbons — like little presents — and placing them on a doily-covered lead crystal plate and surrounding them with extra large raspberries.
“I hunted all over creation for those raspberries,” she said with a chuckle. “I finally found some at Wal-Mart’s stacked high on a top shelf. I even climbed up to get them.”
The extra hustling evidently worked in her favor.
Now that she’s won, King said she’s going to Disney World during her grandchildren’s school vacation this April. With a glance out her kitchen window, eyes scanning the many downed trees, her refrigerator behind her zapped during the recent ice storm, King said she has had enough of the inclement weather and the random spurts of electricity.
“Florida’s my choice,” she said. “If it was up to me, I’d be out of here in a day.”
Raspberry Walnut Shortbread Bars
Crust: 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup (Land O’Lakes) butter
1/2 cup raspberry jam 1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar 2 eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt 1 cup chopped walnuts
Heat oven to 350 degrees. In medium bowl, combine 1 1/4 cups flour and sugar. With pastry blender cut in butter until crumbly. Press on bottom of greased 9-inch square baking pan. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until edges are lightly golden brown.
Spread jam over crust. In small mixer bowl, combine brown sugar, eggs and vanilla. Beat at medium speed until well mixed (1 to 2 minutes). Stir in 3 tablespoons flour and salt until well mixed. Stir in walnuts. Pour over jam. Spread carefully to cover. Continue baking 20-24 minutes or until golden brown and filling is set. Cool completely. Cut into 24 bars.
Nutrition facts (1 bar): 140 calories, 3 grams protein, 18 grams carbohydrate, 7 grams fat, 30 milligrams cholesterol, 60 milligrams sodium.