Lost Italian: It’s a spritz decision: 12-year-old’s submission wins heritage recipe contestMerry Christmas! We can’t believe we’re here already, about to announce the winner of our Holiday Heritage Recipe Contest. Over the past month we have received dozens of entries from 15 states and two Canadian provinces, and narrowing down our contestants to just three finalists was a difficult task.
By: Sarah and Tony Nasello, INFORUM
Merry Christmas! We can’t believe we’re here already, about to announce the winner of our Holiday Heritage Recipe Contest. Over the past month we have received dozens of entries from 15 states and two Canadian provinces, and narrowing down our contestants to just three finalists was a difficult task.
Tony, Gio and I spent an entire weekend poring over each recipe and its heritage story to determine our top five favorites. Then we made those five confections for a round of tasting by a panel of volunteer judges who tightened up the race by determining which three entries would advance to the final round, where the public would vote online for the winner. We were relieved at this stage, as the three of us could not have reached a consensus on our own.
Giovanni was a fan of the Swedish Spritz cookies and was championing the only entry from a fellow kid in the entire contest … until he tried the chocolate-coated Joy to the World Balls, a recipe submitted by Donna Kelly of Provo, Utah.
Donna’s heritage story pulled our heartstrings with images of faraway family members being comforted at the holidays by the familiarity of tradition. After savoring this sweet, coconut confection, Gio followed his taste buds and declared this decadent treat the (symbolic) victor.
My favorite entry was the Belgian Lukken Cookies, a family recipe submitted by Suzanne LaPalm of Oakdale, Minn. I enjoyed reading her heritage story nearly as much as the wonderful photos she included. And then there are the cookies themselves, made with a special lukken or pizzelle press, which we ended up buying so that we could make Suzanne’s cookies for the semifinals.
It was worth every penny because these cookies are to die for. To me, Suzanne’s entry embodies the very essence of this contest, and her story and photos are evidence that this sweet treat will remain a holiday tradition for generations to come.
But, in the end, after 402 votes were cast over two days of online voting, only one finalist could emerge the winner, and that honor goes to 12-year-old Astrid Axtman of Fargo with her great-grandma Elsa’s recipe for Swedish Spritz cookies.
Of course, Tony claims bragging rights, too, as the voters agreed with his top pick, but who can blame him? Astrid was the only youth to enter our contest, and she was competing against some seasoned competitors, as well as two food bloggers in the finals.
Before tasting the cookies, Tony was rooting for Astrid because he is a tender-hearted dad who loves to cook with his son. Spritzes are an old-world favorite for many of us with Scandinavian heritage, but they were new to Tony, who kept poking fun at their name.
But after Gio and I made our first batch with our brand-new cookie press, Tony knew he’d picked the winner. He loves a sweet treat that isn’t too sweet, and these Spritz cookies are right up his alley. Besides, who can resist a story with names like Elsa, Elvie and Astrid? Not many, especially in our region.
You can find all of the contest recipes on our blog at www.thelostitalian.areavoices.com. We wish to thank everyone who participated, either by sharing your heritage recipe with us, or by voting. Congratulations, Astrid! We wish you a happy New Year filled with wonderful goodies made in your new KitchenAid Stand Mixer.
Home with the Lost Italian is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello’s restaurant in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 9-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at email@example.com. All previous recipes can be found at http://thelostitalian.areavoices.com
Holiday Heritage Recipe Contest winner’s heritage story
“My great-grandma Elsa immigrated to the United States (from Sweden) in 1920. She taught herself English by reading the back of sugar sacks and comic books. I’m fortunate that one ten-pound sack of sugar has made an impact on the following generations.
“With that sack of sugar, my great-grandma Elsa started a tradition of making spritz cookies, dying wreathed shaped cookies green, and garnishing them with red icing, or sometimes even sugar dyed red!
“My Grandma Elvie remembers how these cookies were a staple around the holidays. As my grandmother shares, this was passed down, and by the time she started making them sprinkles had become popular thus the icing was replaced. My mother says they go back as far as she can remember. Sometimes her mother would even shape them as trees.
“Grandma continues to make them for us grandchildren, and that’s where I come into the picture. Even though I’m only 12, I have enjoyed learning family baking from my Grandmother. I would really enjoy making many batches of cookies with the KitchenAid mixer and passing on this tradition!”
– Astrid Axtman, Fargo
Astrid Axtman’s great-grandmother’s Swedish Spritz Cookies
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2½ cups sifted flour (all-purpose)
green food coloring
In a stand mixer or large bowl, cream butter. Gradually add sugar, cream well. Add egg, salt, almond extract and vanilla. Beat. Gradually add food coloring until it turns a nice green color. Blend in flour. Once it forms a dough, put the dough through a cookie press.
Bake to a delicate brown at 400 degrees for 6 to 8 minutes. Makes 6 to 7 dozen cookies.