Holiday cookies can be divided into two categories. There are the picture-perfect cookies we see in the glossy magazines, the ones that make us oooh and ahhh over their dazzling designs and festive colors and look too pretty to eat.
Then there are your family’s favorite holiday cookies: They may not be Martha, but it just wouldn’t be Christmas without them.
This fall we asked readers of the L.A. Times Food section to tell us about those recipes for our first Holiday Cookie Bake-Off, and we asked the public to help us crowd-source their favorites.
More than 350 recipes were submitted online, and almost 80,000 votes were cast. We took the Top 50 vote getters to the folks at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Pasadena, and students there baked them all off. L.A. Times Food editor Russ Parsons, deputy Food editor Betty Hallock and Times Test Kitchen manager Noelle Carter spent one Saturday morning tasting every single one along with Lachlan Sands, dean of Cordon Bleu, Rebecca Marrs, director of career services at Cordon Bleu, and Porsche Reid, a student.
Despite six different judges with 50 cookies to choose from, there was little debate about the top 10 favorites, which were subjected to another round of testing in the L.A. Times Test Kitchen and are presented here.
Amanda's amazing icing
In a medium bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, lemon juice and corn syrup. Whisk in milk to make a thick, spreadable icing. If coloring the icing with liquid food coloring, you might want to add a little less milk as the coloring will dilute the frosting. For different flavors, add drops of vanilla, almond or lemon extract. For shinier icing, use a little more corn syrup and a little less milk. The frosting will keep, tightly covered and refrigerated, for up to 1 week.
Amanda's amazing sugar cookies and assembly
In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy, 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, until combined, then beat in the vanilla and almond extracts.
In a separate large bowl, sift together the flour, salt and baking powder. Slowly beat the flour mixture in with the butter mixture until combined to form a smooth dough.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or until well chilled.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. On a floured surface, roll the dough to a thickness of about one-eighth inch. Cut out cookie shapes from the dough. Space the cookies about 1 inch apart on a baking sheet and bake until lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes.
Remove from the sheets and cool completely before icing. Ice as desired.
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