Sweet magic in the 10 winners of L.A. Times Holiday Cookie Bake-off

Beyond the colorful decorations and after the initial rush of sugar, holiday cookies are about something deeper. These handmade creations are a simple yet powerful means of sharing childhood memories and family traditions with those close to us. Be they humble or ornate, our baked goods are used to celebrate and give thanks — thanks for the memories of childhood, the blessings of family and friends, and the magic that can be found only this time of year.

This fall, we again asked L.A. Times readers to share their special cookie recipes with us for our fifth annual Holiday Cookie Bake-Off, and out of the more than 100 recipes that were submitted, here are our 10 favorites.

Video: How we selected winners for our Holiday Cookie Bake-off

We received submissions from all over, with recipes coming in from as far as Oregon, Texas and Tennessee. Thousands of votes were cast, and we took the top 50 vote-getters to Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Pasadena, where students spent a week baking batches of cookies. L.A. Times Food Editor Russ Parsons, Deputy Food Editor Amy Scattergood, Test Kitchen Director Noelle Carter and food writer Jenn Harris joined Cooks County co-owner and pastry chef Roxana Jullapat to taste each cookie.

Earlier this week, 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 staple at a finalist’s annual holiday open house. Another is a recipe passed on from a Danish friend to become one of a finalist’s family’s favorites. Still another cookie reminds a finalist of a grandmother’s love: “I will never forget opening college care packages filled with bars for my roommate and me. These were huge hugs from home.”

For one finalist, a simple cookie represents the gratitude she has for the therapists who are helping to teach her to walk again. “I’ll be baking a batch of these cookies to give out during the holidays to spread the goodwill I’ve received from people in my life, and I hope you will do the same.”

Noelle Carter

Follow me on Twitter @noellecarter