This year's Food & Flavor Holiday Cookie Contest didn't turn up as many fresh twists on recipes as we'd hoped, but then, holiday cookies most often are about tradition.
Here are four of this season's most interesting submissions -- two by email and two by good ol' traditional mail.
We're sending all of our winners cookbooks, and we thank everyone who sent in recipes. Special thanks, too, to my PG colleague and master cookie baker Karen Carlin for her cookie consultation.
-- Bob Batz Jr., food editor
CHOCOLATE ORANGE COOKIES
"Dear Cookie People," writes Rebecca Wallace of Friendship. "When visiting my grandmother, Elizabeth Wallace, in Wilkes-Barre more than 30 years ago, I spent an afternoon going through her personal recipes. Since I am fond of the combination of chocolate and orange, I jotted down this version of a chocolate-chip cookie. To this day it is hands-down my children's, and now my grandchildren's, favorite cookie. And since the dough is light in color, it can be tinted to suit special occasions."
She adds, "Editors: Please note that the recipe is correct as typed. There is no leavening agent in these cookies."
1 cup butter
6 ounces cream cheese
1 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Finely grated rind of 1 large orange
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
12-ounce bag semisweet chocolate chips
Combine first 5 ingredients until fluffy. Add the orange rind, flour and salt to form a somewhat thick dough. Add the chocolate chips at the very end.
Drop heaping teaspoons onto cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes or until the edges begin to brown.
-- Rebecca Wallace, Friendship
JEWELS OF CHRISTMAS
Diane D'Amore Mangino of Enon Valley writes, "This is a super-easy cookie that is beautiful on a cookie tray and no baking is involved. For Christmas I roll them round; for a wedding or special occasion I roll them in the shape of a strawberry and add green plastic stems."
1 teaspoon red gel (not liquid) food coloring
1 large package strawberry Jell-O
1 pound shredded fine sweetened coconut
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 pound finely chopped walnuts or pecans
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
Mix all ingredients except sugar very well, then put into a bowl with a lid and refrigerate for 1 hour. Shape into balls or strawberries, then roll in the sugar.
-- Diane D'Amore Mangino of Enon Valley
CREAM CHEESE COOKIES
Carol Fiering of Banksville writes that this is "from my 'Betty Crocker's Cookbook.' I have it using the devil's food cake mix for over 20 years. This year I changed it by adding a Hershey's Candy Cane Flavored Kiss to each cookie."
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 package yellow or devil's food cake mix
Hershey's Candy Cane Flavored Kisses
Cream butter and cheese. Blend in egg and vanilla.
Add cake mix (dry), 1/3 at a time, mixing well after each addition, (If mixer is used, add last 1/3 of cake mix by hand.) Cover; chill 30 minutes.
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Drop by scant teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until light brown. Press a Kiss on each while hot. Cool slightly before removing from baking sheet. Makes 6 to 8 dozen cookies.
-- Carol Fiering, Banksville
CARAMEL SURPRISE CHOCOLATE CHIP CUPS
"This recipe is a spin on the classic Chocolate Chip Cookie that is a favorite among my family and friends," wrote Swisshelm Park's Terri Urick, whose email handle is b8kergirl. "The recipe is from "A Baker's Field Guide to Chocolate Chip Cookies" by DeDe Wilson (Harvard Common, 2011). The official name is Caramel Surprise Chocolate Chip Cups but we usually refer to them as 'Rolo Cookies.'" Ms. Urick says they have a "lifespan" of 4 days at room temperature in an airtight container in single layers separated by waxed or parchment paper.
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups miniature semisweet chocolate morsels
60 Rolo Candies (you'll need 8 rolls)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat tops of 4 12-cup mini muffin tins with nonstick spray; line with paper liners.
Whisk flour, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl.
In a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add granulated sugar and brown sugar, gradually beating until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, and scraping down bowl once or twice. Beat in vanilla, then eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl. Add about 1/3 of flour mixture and mix on low speed. Gradually add remaining flour mixture, mixing just until blended. Stir in chocolate morsels. Fill each muffin cup with about 1 tablespoon of dough.
Bake until cups begin to turn golden brown, about 8 minutes. The insides will be soft. Press one Rolo candy, narrow side down, into the cup. Leave top of Rolo showing; it should be flush with top of batter. Bake until batter is an even golden brown, about 3 more minutes. Place tins on racks to cool completely before unmolding. To help remove from tins, insert the tip of a butter knife between the cupcake and the tin and gently apply inward and upward pressure to release it.
Makes 60 mini cups.
-- Terri Urick, Swisshelm Park
Chocolate-Chip Peanut-Butter Power Cookies
"The twist?" writes Point Breeze resident Katie Lang. "These cookies can be made entirely vegan AND/OR low glycemic! These ain't your Grandma's Christmas cookies!" She says while the recipe makes about 15 to 17 cookies, "I often double or triple it."
Combine dry ingredients:
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour (extra full is OK) (If doubling or tripling the recipe, you can use 1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour and 1 cup whole-wheat flour or 1 cup white and 1 cup wheat flour)
1/2 teaspoon salt (I use sea salt)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
In a separate bowl, combine wet ingredients:
1 stick butter (I use
salted) or Earth Balance (for vegan)
1/4 cup white sugar, extra full, OR 2 tablespoons agave nectar (for low-glycemic)
1/4 cup heaping brown sugar OR coconut palm sugar (for low-glycemic)
1/2 to 3/4 cup creamy and roasted Natural peanut butter (Not "no-stir" or Jif -- it won't work)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg or 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed mixed with 3 tablespoons water (for vegan)
Add dry ingredients to wet and mix until creamy. Then, blend in:
1 cup raw oatmeal (not instant oats)
3/4 package dark chocolate chips
Stir to combine. Make into small balls and press flat on cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to10 minutes or until cookies are about to turn brown.
Remove from sheet and cool on rack.
-- Katie Lang, Point Breeze