Beyond the colorful decorations and after the initial rush of sugar, holiday cookies are about memories and tradition. 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 asked L.A. Times readers to share their special cookie recipes with us for our third annual Holiday Cookie Bake-Off and then to help us narrow down their favorites to the top 50.
We received close to 200 submissions, and more than 2,500 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, Test Kitchen manager Noelle Carter and features Web producer Jenn Harris joined Lachlan Sands, dean of the cooking school, and culinary student Donna Feoranzo to taste and test each cookie, narrowing it to our top 10.
FOR THE RECORD:
Holiday cookies: The recipe for rosemary apricot bars in the Dec. 15 Saturday section should have credited the cookbook "Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented" by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, from which it was adapted. —
Just over a week ago, 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. One cookie is a "marriage of the holidays" for one winner, the red and green Christmas-inspired filling lovingly rolled into traditional Jewish rugelach, while another cookie reminds a winner of her childhood in Scotland. One cookie brings memories of a winner's father close to her heart every time she bakes them. Still another winner, new to Los Angeles, makes cookies to remind her of loved ones and friends she misses across the miles. One cookie is a mother's holiday specialty; she's now 98 and no longer able to bake, and her tradition is lovingly carried on by her daughter.
Celebrating memories, cookies remind us ofhome. Or remind those close to us of home. One winner made cookies to share with a friend from Sweden. When he tasted the ginger-spiced cookies, the friend remarked, "This is my taste of Christmas."