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Happy Holiday Baking: ‘Christmas Cookie’ champion Ricky Webster shares winning recipes

Ricky Webster won the $10,000 prize on Food Network’s “Christmas Cookie Challenge.” (Courtesy of Food Network)
Ricky Webster won the $10,000 prize on Food Network’s “Christmas Cookie Challenge.” (Courtesy of Food Network)

Did you miss Spokane bakers Amber Stout and Ricky Webster on Food Network’s “Christmas Cookie Challenge”?

They appeared in episode seven of season two.

And Webster won the $10,000 prize.

He’s planning to use his winnings to upgrade kitchen appliances, “buy some chef toys” and – perhaps not as fun but definitely practical – pay some bills.

“I’d like to get a Smeg refrigerator,” he said, referring to the high-end Italian brand of retro-inspired kitchen appliances. “I love their toasters, too.”

He didn’t get to see the show until it aired Nov. 26. He said he was pleased with how it turned out. “It was weird to see myself (on TV), but nice to know they definitely represented me. My personality came across. It was very much true to who I am. My quirkiness, my fun nature came through.”

If you missed him and Stout on the cookie show, Food Network is re-running the episode, dubbed “Modern Classics,” at 7 p.m. Saturday, 11 p.m. Sunday, 2 a.m. Monday, 8 p.m. Dec. 20 and 3 a.m. Dec. 21.

In it, five contestants were challenged with giving Santa a make-over.

Stout’s new look, a precisely piped plaid flannel shirt inspired by how her dad dresses, landed her a spot in the final round. She runs Flour and Frosting in Spokane, and said she learned how to make and decorate cookies from watching videos online. “All the little details, that’s what I’m good at,” she said.

Webster, a business resources consultant with Sysco Spokane, gave Santa scuba gear and added salt to his royal icing. Judges – Ree Drummond, Vivian Chan and Gesine Prado – critiqued the texture.

But Webster – who draws inspiration from Walt Disney, Roald Dahl and Dr. Seuss – was still one of the three to make it to the final round. He wowed judges with a stand-up photo frame made from two kinds of cookie dough and royal icing.

He uses one of them – his recipe for gingerbread – again on another Food Network show Sunday night at 9. Webster, assisted by Spokane pastry chef Megan Gaines, will compete on “Holiday Gingerbread Showdown.” The grand prize is $25,000.

The duo made local headlines last holiday season when they worked together on a life-size gingerbread house at Spokane’s Hotel RL, now the Centennial Hotel, where Webster was the corporate executive chef.

Webster created the walk-through gingerbread house and Gaines, who now works at Cole’s Bakery and Cafe, helped him execute the plan. The endeavor called for 1,300 gingerbread bricks fashioned from 800 pounds of dough and decorated with 100 pounds of fondant.

Webster, who competed on Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” in 2012, loves gingerbread for its sense of magic and whimsy – and also for its taste. His secret ingredient is freshly cracked peppercorns.

He recently completed a 2-by-3-foot gingerbread version of Spokane’s iconic Clocktower, Pavillion, Garbage-Eating Goat sculpture, ice ribbon and gondola ride. He’s hoping to display it locally.

He can’t talk about his creation for Sunday night’s show, but the theme is “Santa’s Most Incredible Workshop.” He did say he made some of the pieces in advance and shipped them to California before filming last summer. The eight boxes weighed about 160 pounds and cost about $600 to send.

Here, Webster shares winning recipes, including his spicy gingerbread.

Pecan Roll Outs

From Ricky Webster

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup toasted pecans, chopped

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 eggs

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

4 cups all-purpose flour

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cream butter, sugar, pecans and extracts. Add eggs one at a time. Add salt and baking powder and mix. Add in the flour one cup at a time and mix just until the ingredients are combined. Separate and wrap. Freeze for 10 minutes and cut out your cookie shapes. Bake 8 minutes.

Royal Icing, Two Ways

From Ricky Webster

The instruction for each recipe are the same, but the ingredients vary. One uses meringue powder. The other uses egg whites. Make one or the other, as preferred.

Version One: Meringue Powder

1 pound powdered sugar

5 tablespoons meringue powder

About 1/2 cup water

Version Two: Egg Whites

1 pound powdered sugar

2 large egg whites

Water, as needed

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl fitted with whisk attachment. Whip about 7 minutes until smooth fluffy and opaque. Add water a teaspoon at a time to thin to desired consistency. If too thin, try whipping longer or adding powdered sugar tablespoon by tablespoon.

Ricky’s Gingerbread

From Ricky Webster

Freshly ground black peppercorns are the secret ingredient in this recipe, which makes a crispy gingerbread with a kick.

6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter

1 cup packed dark-brown sugar

4 teaspoons ground ginger

4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves

1 teaspoon finely ground pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt

2 large eggs

1 cup unsulfered molasses

Sift together flour, baking soda, and baking powder into a large bowl. Set aside.

Put butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until fluffy. Mix in spices and salt, then eggs and molasses. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Divide dough into thirds; wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough on a lightly floured work surface to a 1/4-inch thick. Cut into snowflakes with a 7- inch snowflake-shape cookie cutter. Space 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, and refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.

Bake cookies until crisp but not dark, 12 to 14 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks. Decorate accordingly.

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