THE Times tasting panel gathered recently in The Times test kitchen to taste and judge two dozen entries to the Great Cookie Challenge of 2006. All entries were tasted blind. Joining me on the panel were staff writers Charles Perry and Corie Brown, columnist Russ Parsons, test kitchen director Donna Deane, assistant Food editor Betty Hallock, Food editor Leslie Brenner and deputy features editor Michalene Busico. Here are the Top 10.
1. Gingerbread macarons, Sherry Yard, executive pastry chef, Spago, and Sixto Pocasangre, executive pastry chef, Wolfgang Puck Catering. A delicate riff on the French classic, with terrific texture and a complex flavor, redolent of ginger and spice and apples.
2. Orange madeleines, Alain Giraud, chef director, Four Stars Private Cuisine. A perfect mini madeleine with crisp, lacy edges and notes of orange and almond, but with a crumb that's deeper and richer than the classic cookie. "They're so dainty," said one panelist.
3. Raisin-filled sugar and spice cookies, Craig Strong, chef de cuisine, Ritz-Carlton, Huntington. A fabulous little sandwich, with a raisin filling that's almost like mincemeat and perfectly scalloped edges. Almost like a self-contained dessert.
4. Chocolate sable cookies, Michelle Myers, chef and co-owner, Boule and Sona. A bittersweet chocolate cookie, with terrific texture, soft at the center, yet crisp at the edges. We tasted layers to the chocolate, even a note of anise.
5. Rosemary pine nut cookies, Nancy Silverton, chef and co-owner, and Dahlia Narvaez, pastry chef, Pizzeria Mozza. A shortbread cookie with a pine nut-nougatine top. Buttery, with terrific texture and a hint of corn.
6. Cranberry pistachio biscotti, Brian Kim, pastry chef, La Terza. A nearly perfect biscotti, great browned flour flavor, crisp, very beautiful in a simple but honest way.
7. Chocolate espresso cookies, Nicole Lindsay, pastry chef, Red Pearl and 25 Degrees. Dense, chewy and chocolaty.
8. Pistachio butter cookies, Jonna Jensen, pastry chef, Josie Restaurant. Piped butter cookies with lovely, crisp texture and good pistachio flavor.
9. Apple butter-stuffed gingerbread, Maury Rubin, chef-owner, City Bakery. Giant cookie with filling that erupts into a big dot in the middle. Great texture: soft in the middle, crisp outside.
10. Sesame tuiles, Tomi Harase, chef-owner, Cafe Blanc. Thin, crisp tuiles made with toasted white and black sesame seeds.
-- Amy Scattergood