Los Angeles Times Holiday Cookie Bake-Off: 2013 winners

Los Angeles Times Holiday Cookie Bake-Off: 2013 winners



By Noelle Carter

Beyond the colorful decorations and after the initial rush of sugar, holiday cookies are about memories, tradition and sharing with those close to us. Be they humble or ornate, our baked goods are used to celebrate and give thanks — thanks for our childhoods, the blessings of family and friends and the magic that can be found only this time of year.

This fall, we again asked L.A. Times readers to share their special cookie recipes with us for our fourth annual Holiday Cookie Bake-Off and then to help us narrow down their favorites to the top 50.

We received more than 250 submissions, and more than 3,700 votes were cast. We took the top vote-getters to Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Pasadena, where students spent one Saturday morning baking batches of cookies. L.A. Times Food Editor Russ Parsons, Deputy Food Editor Betty Hallock and Times Test Kitchen Director Noelle Carter joined KCRW's "Good Food" host, Evan Kleiman, to taste and test each cookie, narrowing it to our 10 favorites.

PHOTOS: Our 10 favorite cookie recipes

Earlier this week, the L.A. Times Test Kitchen was jammed with happy bakers and their helpers for this year's photo shoot. Amazing cookies, memories and traditions were shared. The Czechoslovakian nut bars bring back memories of a finalist's Slovak heritage. The holiday crescent cookies bring sisters together one afternoon each year to bake in their mother's honor. The frosted orange crispies were given to a finalist years ago by a military wife; she would serve her cookies on a silver tray at the officers club. The candy cane chocolate mandel bread is a merging of holidays for one family, Hanukkah and Christmas honored together.

As much as holiday cookies might keep memories and tradition alive, they also help to share memories and traditions with new friends in new places. One family is known far and wide for its chocolate peppermint snaps: "Everywhere we have lived — Madrid, Nairobi, Suva, SoCal — we've given these cookies as Christmas gifts to friends."

noelle.carter@latimes.com

Cookie contest winners from previous years: 2012, 2011 and 2010

Recipe: Czechoslovakian nut bars

3:13 PM PST, December 20, 2013

Recipe: Czechoslovakian nut bars

"This is a recipe handed down to me by my grandmother. It brings back many memories of my Slovak heritage. It is easy peasy to make and is a favorite of everyone." -- Mary Martin

Recipe: Chocolate peppermint snaps

3:35 PM PST, December 20, 2013

Recipe: Chocolate peppermint snaps

"Chocolate? Peppermint? What could be better for the holidays than a mash-up of chocolate and peppermint? Everywhere we have lived -- Madrid, Nairobi, Suva [Fiji], SoCal -- we've given these cookies as Christmas gifts to friends." -- Ben Rode

Recipe: Mom's holiday crescent cookies

3:15 PM PST, December 20, 2013

Recipe: Mom's holiday crescent cookies

"I have fond memories of helping my mother bake cookies each year in the kitchen as we would listen to Christmas carols. These holiday crescents were a favorite of hers, and it wouldn't be Christmas without having a platter of them on the table." -- Jeanne Kantak

Recipe: Suzie's sugar cookies

3:13 PM PST, December 20, 2013

Recipe: Suzie's sugar cookies

"My mother made these cookies only once a year for Christmas, and somehow, only on Christmas Eve, after she had sent us to bed. They magically appeared in the morning. As time went on and it got to be too much for her, I stepped up and made them for the family." -- Sheri Miyamoto

Recipe:  Meyer lemon lavender shortbread

3:32 PM PST, December 20, 2013

Recipe: Meyer lemon lavender shortbread

"My neighbor had an overflowing Meyer lemon tree and would leave bags of lemons on my porch. What to do with all those lemons? Meyer lemon lavender shortbread cookies! The perfect combination of sweet, tart and savory." -- Deb Love

Recipe:  Candy cane chocolate mandel bread

3:46 PM PST, December 20, 2013

Recipe: Candy cane chocolate mandel bread

"My family just loves peppermint candy canes. Mandel bread is also a favorite around this time of year, and what better way to combine Christmas and Hanukkah and honor the diversity in our family." -- Gail Field

Recipe:  Frosted orange crispies

3:41 PM PST, December 20, 2013

Recipe: Frosted orange crispies

"This recipe was given to me by a military wife many years ago. It was her signature cookie that she'd take to the officers club when the wives met. She knew it was her best recipe because, regardless of the occasion, they were always the first ones to go." -- Penny Haselmo

Recipe:  Chocolate peanut butter crinkles

3:14 PM PST, December 20, 2013

Recipe: Chocolate peanut butter crinkles

"When I first decided to make these cookies, I found I did not have baking chocolate in the house. But I did know the conversion for baking chocolate to cocoa plus fat. Instead of using butter or oil, I used peanut butter and have been making them this way ever since." -- Carol Gendel

Recipe: Brown butter pecan shortbread

3:33 PM PST, December 20, 2013

Recipe: Brown butter pecan shortbread

"I've always loved the combination of sweet and salt. When I was a kid, I loved pretzels and vanilla ice cream together. The edges of this nutty, rich cookie glisten with the combination of coarse sugar and flaked sea salt." -- Zora Margolis

Recipe: Pistachio-cranberry icebox cookies

3:46 PM PST, December 20, 2013

Recipe: Pistachio-cranberry icebox cookies

"Pistachio-cranberry icebox cookies might be one of the most popular recipes among my family and friends. I like icebox cookies because I can start making up cookie dough a couple months before Christmas and do a baking marathon a week or two before Christmas" -- Sandra Lee Smith

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