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.
My 98-year-old mother was a wonderful baker, and this was one of her specialties.
When I was a little girl in Scotland, my mother used to make a very simple yet delicious snow cake, which was topped with white icing and shredded coconut.
I just moved to Los Angeles this past summer, leaving family, friends and a wonderful group of food bloggers in Minneapolis. This will be my first sunny Southern California Christmas, and I know I will make these bar cookies and remember the loving friendships I have across the miles.
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.
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.
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!
Oh, no, not another Mexican wedding cake! But these are out-of-this-world, melt-in-your-mouth, can't-stop-eating favorites!
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.
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."