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A dream and a toaster oven takes 1st place at state fair

Becoming interested in baking thanks to her grandma’s, Mallory Leitinger submitted a cookie she thought was not good enough, and took down the competition.

A girl standing next to her cookies
The Brown Butter Chocolate Chip cookie recipe 16-year-old Mallory Leitinger submitted to the state fair this year bested 133 other cookie entries in the “chocolate chip cookies, no fruits or nuts” category.
Contributed / Michelle Leitinger
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AITKIN — Years of baking and a toaster oven is all it took for an Aitkin County teen to best 133 other chocolate chip cookie entries at the Minnesota State Fair this year.

The brown butter chocolate chip cookie recipe 16-year-old Mallory Leitinger baked was a recipe she found in a cookbook she owns, with some slight modifications. The cookies took top prize in the “chocolate chip cookies, no fruits or nuts” category at the Great Minnesota Get-Together.

“It was one recipe I didn't think was going to win out of the other ones that I entered,” Leitinger said during a Thursday, Sept. 29, phone interview. “The only reason I entered it was because my mom said I should. I really didn't think it would ever be good enough.”

Leitinger also entered chocolate crinkle cookies, peanut butter paprika cookies and oatmeal cream pies.

As she readied her treats for the state competition, Leitinger’s parents were remodeling the house, limiting her baking options.

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“For the State Fair, well, we don't actually have a real oven at our house right now, just a toaster oven because our kitchen’s being remodeled,” Leitinger said. “So it just worked out a little better to make cookies rather than a cake because it's hard to bake a cake properly in the small oven.”

Leitinger said this was her second year submitting baked goods to the state fair and the Aitkin County Fair, where she took home reserve champion for blueberry muffins and grand champion for a chocolate mint layered cake. With hopes of working with a full kitchen next year, Leitinger wants to try submitting layered cakes again, along with trying her hand in the cookies with nuts category.

Leitinger said she became interested in baking thanks to her grandmas. When she was about 10 years old, Leitinger got her first cookbook and started taking baking more seriously than just a hobby.

With Grandma on her dad's side, she made a lot of gingerbread cookies and learned decorating.

“And with my other grandma, we would usually make cupcakes or just kind of other recipes,” Leitinger said. “I remember making applesauce with her and just making different recipes. She's helped me make my birthday cake or we'd make cakes for my family's birthday. Then she kind of, I guess encouraged me to keep baking when I got my first cookbook.”

Developing a sense of competition during her days in 4-H, Leitinger said she decided to try competing and plans to continue before she goes off to college. A junior at Aitkin High School, Leitinger said she still bakes a few times a week and uses her friends and family as taste testers.

“I make a lot of, like, decorated cakes and cookies, brownies,” Leitinger said. “I also make a lot of muffins and quick breads, like the last thing I made was pumpkin muffins and zucchini bread.”

Leitinger said she would encourage anyone thinking of baking and entering a competition to try it out but to make sure they’re reading and measuring ingredients correctly.

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“Don't pick a recipe that's too complicated,” Leitinger said. “And it helps make sure you read the recipe and measure everything correctly. Because I always have kids at school telling me their stuff doesn't turn out. It's because they don't measure it. And then about competitions, I guess I would say just go for it. I mean, the worst thing that happens is that you don't win.”

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TIM SPEIER, staff writer, can be reached on Twitter @timmy2thyme , call 218-855-5859 or email tim.speier@brainerddispatch.com .

Tim Speier joined the Brainerd Dispatch in October 2021, covering Public Safety.
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