Student’s pumpkin-white chocolate cookie wins contest

Senior Cole Warner says baking can build bridges

St. Louis Post-Dispatch food writer Dan Neman recently learned what the members of fraternity Beta Theta Pi have known for years — Washington University in St. Louis senior Cole Warner makes a killer cookie. Warner’s recipe for pumpkin-white chocolate chip snickerdoodles bested about 80 reader recipes to win the Judges’ Pick award for the annual St. Louis Post-Dispatch Cookie Contest.


“I don’t think it was the pumpkin, the white chocolate chips, the cinnamon or the pumpkin pie spice that made his recipe stand out. I think rather that it was all that butter and sugar,” Neman raved.

The Record caught up with Warner at his parents’ home in St. Louis, where he was making cookie dough for the annual Beta Theta Pi holiday party. Typically, he bakes 300 to 400 cookies, but this year he served 500 chocolate chip, chocolate crinkle and, of course, pumpkin-white chocolate chip cookies.

“It’s my final hurrah, so I went all out,” said Warner, a Gephardt Institute Civic Scholar who is studying American culture studies in Arts & Sciences. “Some of my favorite memories have been at the Christmas party. Seeing someone smile as they take that first bite is a pretty great moment for me.”

Here, Warner shares more about his winning recipe, why he loves to bake and what he does when he’s not whipping sugar and butter.

Tell us more about your recipe.

Cole Warner's pumpkin-white chocolate chip snickerdoodles

Yield: 18 cookies

1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter
¼ cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
6 tablespoons puréed pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
½ cup white chocolate chips

1. Melt butter in a microwave. In a separate bowl, mix together the melted butter, the brown sugar and ½ cup of the granulated sugar. When there are no more lumps, mix in the pumpkin puree and vanilla.
2. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, 1½ teaspoons of the cinnamon and the pumpkin pie spice. Once mixed, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mixing until combined. Fold in the white chocolate chips and refrigerate the dough for a few hours.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the remaining ½ cup granulated sugar and the remaining ½ teaspoon cinnamon, and roll balls of dough in this mixture before placing on a greased or parchment-covered baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.

Per cookie: 172 calories; 7g fat; 5g saturated fat; 15mg cholesterol; 2g protein; 26g carbohydrate; 18g sugar; 1g fiber; 73mg sodium; 26mg calcium

I read a lot of baking blogs, and I came across a recipe like this one a couple of years ago. After tinkering with it, I came up with a cookie that has just the right amount of pumpkin flavor. I love pumpkin and I love fall, so this cookie is a favorite in my cookie arsenal.

Are you the most popular person at Washington University?

I like to joke that I’ve made friends with cookies and baked goods. Before move-in day my freshman year, I made chocolate chip cookies for people on my floor and anyone who stopped in. It was definitely a great excuse for me to begin a conversation. Cookies are a great bridge to a friendship. After all, who can say no to a cookie?

Today, I’ll often go home for Sunday meals and get out the mixer to make a batch of cookies to bring back. It’s so cathartic to get lost in the process of following a recipe and knowing there will be a sweet treat at the end of all of the work.

You are planning to attend medical school. Explain how your work as an American culture studies major has prepared you for that field.

One of things I’ve loved most about WashU is how I’ve been able to take classes across the spectrum, from early American history to cancer biology. All of that will impact how I will, hopefully, one day, show up as a doctor. I obviously love science and respect the work of researchers, but I am especially interested in patient care. And to do that well, you need to know patients as individuals and as part of a larger system. That’s where my classes about America’s history have made a difference. They have pushed me away from ignorance.

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