UPDATE: We Have a Winner! The Food52 Holiday Cookie Truck (and Some Healthy Competition)

December 16, 2015

UPDATE: We have a winner! #TeamMerrill's Soft Chocolate Almond Cherry Cookies stole your hearts, and #TeamAmanda's Chewy Vanilla Spice Cookies with Chocolate Chunks (Vegan, Too!) are being good sports about the whole thing.

Thanks to everyone who came out, ate cookies, and voted, and special thanks to Nielsen-Massey Vanillas for making our Cookie Truck dreams come true.

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Read on below for the story behind the cookie truck, plus see what happened when it hit the streets of NYC, and find out the strangest answers we got to the question: Do you want a free cookie?

Imagine cookies. Now, imagine if said cookie recipes came from our co-founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs. You’re probably thinking something along the lines of, “Yes.” Then imagine if said A&M cookies were delivered in a cookie truck. But wait, it’s no dream!


The Food52 Holiday Cookie Truck, presented by Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, will be driving around New York City from December 7 to 13, distributing cookies and good cheer, but—naturally—only after a little healthy competition.

Competition, you ask? Well, this isn’t the first instance of a friendly cookie war between A&M (see below for proof!). But this time, they need your help developing recipes! The only requirement is the cookies use vanilla in some form, as all great cookies do. They'll take your suggestions to heart, and then you'll be able to vote for your favorite cookie—Amanda's or Merrill's—from the cookie truck. 

And once the recipes are up, be sure to make them, too! Instagram what you bake, tagging your photos with #F52CookieTruck (plus #teamamanda or #teammerrill) to pledge your cookie allegiance. So here are their requests: 

From Amanda:

Hey, everyone—my record against Merrill is shaky and I'd love your help creating a cookie that will leave hers in the dust graciously defeat hers. I'm looking for something that's chewy in the center with a crisp perimeter, a little salty and not too sweet, and the flavors I have in mind are chocolate and ginger. Any ideas and tips welcome....go! (And thanks from the bottom of my cookie jar.)

From Merrill:

Our last cookie showdown may have ended in a draw, but this time things are going to get real. And I need every bit of help I can get, because if there's anything Amanda knows cold it's baked goods.

I'm looking for a cookie with a good balance of salty and sweet and a crumbly/sandy texture (not chewy). It could involve chocolate, maybe nuts or oats, perhaps some fruit or jam. No meringues or sugar cookies—I’m going for something with a little more oomph!

Add your cookie suggestions to the comments below, or Instagram them, tagging your ‘grams with #f52CookieTruck (plus, of course, #teamamanda or #teammerrill).  

And, finally, here’s that vintage (a.k.a. 2009) cookie video:

Best Chocolate Cookie Recipe from Food52 on Vimeo.

Photos by James Ransom, Bobbi Lin, and Mark Weinberg 

We'll be tooling around New York City from December 7 to 13 in The Food52 Holiday Cookie Truck, thanks to Nielsen-Massey Vanillas

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Chef Devaux
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  • Droplet
I fall in love with every sandwich I ever meet.


Chef D. November 25, 2015
Mmmmm cookies =)
AntoniaJames October 16, 2015
Have you thought of offering a branded cookie? I'm thinking, perhaps, a bold ginger and cardamom shortbread stamped with "F52" which is then piped in chocolate around the edges as well as on the brand. (I don't know what your production limitations are; this may be too labor intensive.)

Speaking of branded holiday cookies . . . . . . For years one of my best clients (a successful tech company with a brilliantly scalable SaaS product, requiring a relatively small staff) has given each of its clients and some of their lucky vendors, like me, a large tin -- a bucket, actually -- of holiday cookies that the staff has decorated. They shut down all business activities starting at noon one weekday in early December. The entire staff puts on aprons; a local cookie caterer brings over thousands of just-baked cookies cut into the five letters of the company's name, as well as pastry bags filled with icing, along with giant tubs of it and spreaders. The shipping boxes are all lined, labeled, etc. in advance, so the tins are shipped that night. So thoughtful, so memorable; it's also a team-building activity that the staff looks forward to every year!

This may not have as much of an impact on Food52's most important business relationships, as it seems that food-related companies are always giving each other food gifts, but the branding is certainly something to think about.

Also, just a detail here . . . . I don't know if NYC composts green waste city-wide, but if it's likely that the bags you'll be using are going to be composted, please remember not to slap gummed labels onto them, as they cannot be composted that way (unless someone has come up with a compostable glue . . . . ) Much better environmentally, and no doubt much more cost effective, to have your bags printed. And have you considered putting out a composting bin next to the truck for purchasers to put their cookie wrappers in, whether or not the city has a composting program? ;o)
KRISTIN J. October 14, 2015
My family has a very old recipe for a Molasses cookie. They are rolled in sugar and very moist in the center. You cannot eat just one!
NakedBeet October 14, 2015
For Merrill: I made a buckwheat peanut butter based cookie (a little dry like you're looking for) sandwiched in between raspberry jam. It's a stacked layer, but I was going to experiment with an easier method of making a pinwheel, good combo of salt to sweet. ; )
Merrill S. October 29, 2015
Love this idea. Like a grownup peanut butter and jelly cookie!
Droplet October 14, 2015
Merril: Perhaps you could use Zaletti Veneziani as a base inspiration. The polenta gives them a very sandy, crumbly texture and nice flavor. Maybe with candied orange rind in lieu of the currants...
Merrill S. October 29, 2015
Great suggestion!
AntoniaJames October 14, 2015
Amanda: How about a riff on the classic peanut butter chocolate pinwheel cookie, substituting almond butter for peanut butter, adding a lot of vanilla and a touch of ground ginger to the dough, and finely chopped crystallized ginger to the melted chocolate?
I'm not sure what kind of production limitations you have for this project. The pinwheels are essentially a slice and bake cookie. If you want more details, just send me a note. I'm happy to do a proof of concept, and then send the recipe. ;o)
Amanda H. October 14, 2015
Thanks, AJ. It's funny because someone on our team made a similar sounding cookie and brought it to the office about a month ago, and I thought about modeling my cookie after it, but then backed away. Going to ponder!
AntoniaJames October 14, 2015
Well if you do, Amanda, keep this in mind when mapping out your production schedule: after you roll up the dough with the chocolate, but before slicing, you must refrigerate it for 30 minutes - no more, and no less -- to firm up the dough before baking, but not so long that the chocolate hardens up. If the chocolate hardens, you can't slice the cookies, and there's no going back. When making these with chocolate (I really like making a paste of sour cherries with a few dates in them to use instead of the chocolate, because I make several other chocolate-y holiday treats), I make the dough two or three days ahead of time. Then I roll, refrigerate, cut and bake all on the same evening. ;o)
heather October 14, 2015
For years, I searched for a go-to chocolate chip recipe, and then I found it in the Ad Hoc Cookbook. I absolutely love Thomas Keller's chocolate chip cookie recipe! One of the genius aspects to the recipe is his addition of molasses sugar to the dough. I use my food processor to make my own molasses sugar. I follow Alton Brown's measurements, but use turbinado raw sugar and unsulphured blackstrap molasses. Hope you get to test them out!

The Keller recipe can be found here:

Alton's recipe is found here:
Amanda H. October 14, 2015
Interesting -- thanks for the tip!
Sara D. October 13, 2015
Merrill: do you remember Keebler's Magic Middles? Maybe you could do a riff on that or on Brown Eyed Baker's chocolate thumbprints
Merrill S. October 29, 2015
I don't remember those -- will have to look them up! Did they have chocolate in the center?
Marla N. October 13, 2015
Blackmarket Bakery in Costa Mesa,CA has a wonderful florentine cookie. A shortbread like crust topped with a caramel/honey/ginger mixture and topped with almonds and cranberries. Perfection. A layer of chocolate at the bottom of the cookie layer could only make things better!
Amanda H. October 14, 2015
AntoniaJames October 13, 2015
Merrill: A few years ago I took the heavenly maple, olive oil praline-like pecans from Nekisia Davis' Food52 Genius granola to make an incredibly tasty nut crescent. A true crowd-pleaser, it seems to meet all of your criteria. Recipe (which I updated this morning to include metric quantities) is here: ;o)
Merrill S. October 29, 2015
Interesting use of those pecans, which I love as well. Thank you for the suggestion.
Samantha W. October 13, 2015
Merrill: a new take on the linzer cookie? Thinking a chocolate cookie as opposed to the traditional; maybe an out-of-left-field jam.

Amanda: what about adding chopped chocolate or some caramel to a traditional molasses cookie and pumping it up with fresh ginger, plus a little romp in some rosemary sugar?
Amanda H. October 14, 2015
All cookies should romp, after all. Thx!
Merrill S. October 29, 2015
Love chocolate and jam together. This is a great idea.
Whipple October 13, 2015
One of my all time faves is the King Arthur Flour Choc Chip (link: it gets top marks every time i bake it.

A cookie recipe i am looking for it a bacon-shortbread with maybe pecans, and don't forget maple something. I was thinking a riff off my son's favorite maple bacon doughnut. if anyone has a keeper already please speak up.
Loves F. October 13, 2015
Amanda: Fannie Farmer's original chocolate chip cookie is crispy and chewy, wrinkly around the edges, really buttery, and basically perfect. I could definitely see that with a little ginger treatment!

Merrill: I think a Russian tea-cake or Mexican wedding cookie has the texture you're going for... lots of ground nuts + powdered sugar. It could be fun to do a spiced up twist, maybe with warming spices like cardamom and cinnamon. And I'd go for scraped vanilla beans!
Amanda H. October 14, 2015
Thank you!
Merrill S. October 29, 2015
I have always had such a soft spot for these -- I'm fact, I was thinking of them when I was writing out my ideal cookie description. These are great suggestions for modifying, thank you!
AntoniaJames October 13, 2015
Amanda: How about these chubby, crunchy ginger amaretti You could add chunks of chopped dark chocolate in place of the sour cherries.
These pack a lot of flavor with the chopped crystallized ginger, even if they might not win a beauty contest. (I am now craving them, intensely, with the dark chocolate add-in.) ;o)
Sarah J. October 13, 2015
For Amanda: Black bottom-inspired chocolate cookies (cakey/chewy dark chocolate cookies with a swirl or dollop or thumbprint of cream cheese/crème fraîche and candied ginger).
Amanda H. October 14, 2015
Reminds me of cupcakes my mom used to make; loved them. Appreciate your good ideas!
Erin A. October 13, 2015
Amanda: These. These cookies. These are The. Best. Cookie. and they are chocolate ginger. I often make them without the fresh ginger to avoid too much bite, just increasing the powdered a little, but both versions are amazing. you will win. I'm sure they could stand a little vanilla...
Amanda H. October 13, 2015
Thanks Erin! I've made these Martha cookies as well -- so delicious!
AntoniaJames October 13, 2015
Somehow that #teammerrill doesn't seem right. Can you post a URL here to confirm? Thank you. ;o)
Micha October 13, 2015
Brown sugar or Sucanat makes cookies chewy; I prefer crispy edges, so if I use either of those for a deeper flavor I also bake at a lower temp for longer - getting crispy edges with a chewy interior. Browning butter also gives extra caramel flavor and adds to chewiness.
ChefJune October 13, 2015
Merrill I have a peanut butter cookie that has exactly the texture you talked about. I often add chopped peanuts and/or chocolate chunks for extra heft and goodness. I'd be happy to share the recipe. Just let me know.
Merrill S. October 29, 2015
Thank you! I'm feeling torn between peanut butter and chocolate at the moment...
Ali S. October 13, 2015
Merrill—your crispy, crunchy oatmeal cookies might be a good place to start!
Riddley G. October 13, 2015
I second that!