Food

The sweet taste of Christmas

Arts and CultureRuss ParsonsNoelle Carter

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.

VIDEO: Meet all the Holiday Cookie Bake-Off winners

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."

noelle.carter@latimes.com

Recipes:

Lemony moons and stars

Cranberry orange pockets

Cherry pistachio rugelach

Mexican wedding cakes

Gluten-free wedding cakes

Santa's coat buttons

Joulu pipparkakor

Rosemary apricot bars

Snow cookies

Almond sweeties

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Arts and CultureRuss ParsonsNoelle Carter
  • Recipe: Cranberry orange pockets
    Recipe: Cranberry orange pockets

    My dad loved these cookies, and his eyes would light up every time I baked them. He was always happy to taste-test cookies and would hang around waiting for the first batch to be iced. Dad called it "quality control."

  • Recipe: Cherry pistachio rugelach
    Recipe: Cherry pistachio rugelach

    I used dark cherry preserves and chopped green pistachios as the filling to offer a "red/green" look for Christmas colors and have a marriage of the holidays.

  • Recipe: Mexican wedding cakes
    Recipe: Mexican wedding cakes

    Oh, no, not another Mexican wedding cake! But these are out-of-this-world, melt-in-your-mouth, can't-stop-eating favorites!

  • Recipe: Gluten-free wedding cakes
    Recipe: Gluten-free wedding cakes

    The real gift is, if you have anyone in your extended circle who wants or needs to be wheat- or gluten-free, you will be giving them a way to once again enjoy something that they thought would be permanently off-limits!

  • Recipe: Santa's coat buttons
    Recipe: Santa's coat buttons

    Santa's coat buttons are so much fun to make with a group of children. It is a watch-carefully-and-follow baking instruction project.

  • Recipe: Joulu pipparkakor
    Recipe: Joulu pipparkakor

    Many years ago, a co-worker from Finland shared her family recipe for these best-ever gingery spice cookies (which she calls suomalaisat piparkakut). She made them and gave them to friends because, in the land of sunny Christmas mornings, they reminded her of home.

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