The top 50 cookies will be made at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Pasadena and the Los Angeles Times food staff will choose our 10 favorites. If you're a finalist, you'll be invited to come tour The Times test kitchen and be photographed and featured in a future Saturday section of the paper.
CANDY CANE CHOCOLATE MANDEL BREAD
Total time: 1 hour plus cooling and chilling times | Makes 3 to 4 dozen cookies
2 1/2 cups (10.6 ounces) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup Dutch process (alkalized) cocoa powder
1 teaspoon espresso powder
3/4 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1 cup crushed peppermint candy canes, plus 1/4 to 1/2 cup for decoration, divided
1 pound white chocolate, melted, for decorating
1. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and espresso powder, and set aside.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat together canola oil, eggs and vanilla. Beat in the sugar, then gradually beat in the dry ingredients. Stir in 1 cup crushed candy cane pieces by hand.
3. Cover the mixing bowl and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours.
4. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. Form the dough into 2 slightly flattened logs, each about 12 inches long and 3 inches wide. Place the logs a few inches apart on the prepared cookie sheet (the logs will spread as they bake) and bake for 25 minutes, rotating halfway through for even baking.
5. Remove and cool the logs for 20 to 25 minutes. Meanwhile, reduce the oven to 300 degrees. Cut the cooled logs crosswise into one-half-inch thick slices, and separate the slices about one-fourth inch, leaving the slices upright. Bake for an additional 10 minutes to set and begin to harden the cookies.
6. Cool completely, then drizzle with the melted white chocolate; you may not use all of the chocolate. Sprinkle over the remaining one-fourth to one-half cup crushed candy canes. Refrigerate the cookies to set the chocolate.
Each of 48 cookies: calories 143; protein 2 grams; carbohydrates 18 grams; fiber 0; fat 7 grams; saturated fat 2 grams; cholesterol 15 mg; sugar 12 grams; sodium 26 mg