Washington University senior wins cookie contest

Eyler's winning chocolate turtle cookies boast toasted pecans, chocolate and caramel

Gabbie Eyler won the People’s Choice award for her chocolate turtle cookies. (Photo courtesy of Eyler)

Washington University in St. Louis seniors — tops in smarts, service and . . . sugar.

For the second straight year, a senior has won first prize in the annual St. Louis Post-Dispatch Holiday Cookie Contest. Last year, Cole Warner wowed judges with his pumpkin-white chocolate chip snickerdoodles. And this year, Gabbie Eyler is the People’s Choice winner for her chocolate turtle cookies, a chocolate sugar cookie rolled in toasted pecans and drizzled with chocolate and caramel.

Eyler started baking as a little girl. Her mother, Amy Eyler, associate professor of public health at the Brown School, would lift her onto the kitchen counter and let her mix in the ingredients for their chocolate chip cookies.

Eyler learned to bake from her mother, Amy Eyler of the Brown School. (Photo courtesy of Gabbie Eyler)

“She would always let me help and never got mad at me if I made a mistake,” Eyler recalled. “Baking became a special thing we would do together.”

Eyler stepped up her baking in college. She finds the ritual a great way to relieve stress and bring joy to family and friends. And, yes, maybe it offers an excuse to put off studying.

“I was reading an article in The New York Times about ‘procrastibaking’ and I was like, ‘Yep, that sounds about right,” said Eyler, who is majoring psychology in Arts & Sciences and plans to become an occupational therapist.

Eyler posts photos of her delicacies on her Instagram feed, @gabzgoodz. Current featured sweets include a double-layer chocolate cake with ganache, a strawberry-rhubarb tart and several varieties of her latest baking obsession, French macarons. The more challenging the recipe, the better.

“I tend to be a bit of perfectionist, which helps with recipes like the macarons,” Eyler said. “People can be intimidated by baking but I feel like I’m in my flow when I’m in the kitchen.”

Eyler rarely indulges in her own creations as she prefers salty to sweet. Instead, she gives them as host gifts or brings them to the hot yoga studio where she works. Don’t tell the instructors, but each turtle cookie packs 256 calories. 

“Everything is OK in moderation,” Eyler said. “That’s my public health mother in me.” 

Chocolate turtle cookies

Yield: 27 cookies

20 tablespoons (2½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

2 cups granulated sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

¾ cup cocoa powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

2½ cups roasted and salted pecans, finely chopped

½ cup caramel bits

¼ cup plus 2 to 3 tablespoons heavy cream, divided

½ cup semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla.

3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda. Slowly stir or beat flour mixture into egg mixture.

4. Using a standard cookie scoop, roll dough into balls and roll in finely chopped pecans.

5. Arrange 9 cookies per baking sheet and bake for 13 minutes. Allow to cool on the sheet for at least 5 minutes.

6. Once the cookies are cooled, melt caramel and 2 to 3 tablespoons heavy cream together. Drizzle over cookies. Then melt chocolate with remaining ¼ cup heavy cream, and drizzle over cookies.

Per serving: 256 calories; 18g fat; 8g saturated fat; 39mg cholesterol; 2g protein; 24g carbohydrate; 21g sugar; 2g fiber; 118mg sodium; 19mg calcium

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