Makes about 3 dozen.
Note: 2007 contest winner Eileen Troxel of St. Paul spotted this recipe in Traditional Home magazine and it quickly became the centerpiece of her December baking routine. "After many years of experimentation, I now limit my holiday baking to about six cookies that I consider to be the best," she said. "They are displayed and served on a vintage French tiered cooling rack that stands among German papier-mache Santas and is constantly replenished for my family and our friends all throughout the holiday season."
• 1 c. (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature, plus extra for chocolate dipping sauce
• 1 c. sugar
• 1 egg yolk
• 2 tsp. finely grated orange zest
• 2 c. flour, plus extra for rolling dough
• 1/4 c. orange marmalade, divided
• 6 oz. bittersweet chocolate
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter for 30 seconds. Add sugar and beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg yolk and orange zest. Reduce speed to low and add flour until just combined.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Using a 11/2-inch round cookie cutter, cut dough into rounds, rerolling and recutting until all is used. Place rounds on prepared baking sheets.
Using your thumb, make a slight indentation in center of cookie and fill with 1/2 teaspoon orange marmalade. Bake approximately 12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Remove from oven and transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
In a double boiler over simmering water, melt chocolate, whisking in enough butter (1 tablespoon at a time, up to about 4 tablespoons) to make a good dipping consistency. Dip half of each cookie in chocolate and place on waxed paper until chocolate sets.
Makes about 3 dozen.
Note: This recipe must be prepared in advance. Sel de guerande is a sea salt harvested from the salt marshes of Brittany and available at Cooks of Crocus Hill in St. Paul and Edina. When 2006 contest winner Mary Eckmeier of St. Paul bakes these easy-to-make, egg-free cookies (adopted from Dorie Greenspan's "Paris Sweets" cookbook), she uses Penzeys Natural Cocoa Powder (available at Penzeys; three Twin Cities locations and www.penzeys.com), Guittard chocolate chips (available at most natural foods co-ops) and Hope Creamery butter (made in Hope, Minn., and available at most supermarkets and natural foods co-ops). "These cookies are mostly butter," she said, "so you have to use the right butter to get the right cookie."
• 1 1/4 c. flour
• 1/3 c. natural (unsweetened) cocoa powder
• 1/2 tsp. sel de guerande or other coarse sea salt
• 1/2 tsp. baking soda
• 1/2 c. plus 3 tbsp. (1 stick plus 3 tbsp., or 5 1/2 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 2/3 c. firmly packed brown sugar
• 1/4 c. granulated sugar
• 1 tsp. vanilla extract
• 5 oz. (about 3/4 c.) semisweet chocolate chips
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, sel de guerande (or other coarse sea salt) and baking soda and reserve.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and vanilla extract until creamy. Add flour mixture and mix until crumbly, just enough so flour is not blowing all over the bowl. Using a spatula, fold in chocolate chips.
Dump mixture onto a clean work surface and knead a few times to finish mixing (the warmth of your hands will help mixture come together). Divide dough in half and shape into logs about 18 inches long and about 1 inch in diameter.
Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 3 days. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Unwrap logs and using a very sharp knife with a thin blade, slice logs into 1/2-inch cookies (if cookies come apart after slicing, just push dough back together using your fingers).
Place about 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets and bake 12 minutes; do not overbake. Remove from oven, cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes and transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
devil's delight cookies
Makes 2 to 4 dozen cookies.
Note: Vosges ancho-chipotle pepper/cinnamon chocolate bars are available at Whole Foods Market, Lunds and Byerly's and at www.vosgeschocolate.com. Mexican vanilla extract is available at Mexican supermarkets. Thank Legacy Chocolates for inspiring this prize-winning cookie, from Michelle Clark of St. Paul. Her minor obsession with the St. Paul store's dark chocolate-chipotle truffle got her thinking: Could it translate into a cookie? Clark kicked the idea around for a few weeks, and then remembered the Christmas presents she bestowed upon friends the previous year: Vosges chocolate bars with chipotle and cinnamon. Eureka. In no time, Clark had formulated an unforgettable cookie. "Sure, it's not your basic Santa cutout cookie," she said. "But it has chocolate and cinnamon, and those are both Christmas flavors to me. Besides, to have the scent of chocolate and cinnamon in the oven, well, what's more Christmas than that?"
• 10 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
• 1/2 c. plus 2 tsp. flour
• 3 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
• 1/4 tsp. baking powder
• 1/4 tsp. chipotle chile powder or cayenne pepper powder
• 1/4 tsp. salt
• 5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 1 c. plus 1 tbsp. sugar
• 3 eggs
• 2 tsp. Mexican vanilla extract
• 1 (3.3 oz.) Vosges Red Fire chocolate bar, chopped
• 1/2 c. (3 oz.) cinnamon chips, such as Hershey Cinnamon Chips
• 4 tsp. sugar
• 4 tsp. cinnamon
• 1/8 tsp. chipotle chile powder or cayenne pepper powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. In a double boiler over simmering water, melt bittersweet chocolate until smooth. Remove from heat and cool for 10 minutes.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, chipotle chile powder (or cayenne pepper powder) and salt and reserve.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Continue to beat until mixture is pale, light and creamy, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to low, add lukewarm melted chocolate and vanilla extract, and beat until just combined. Fold in flour mixture, then fold in chopped chocolate bar and cinnamon chips.
In a small bowl, whisk together sugar, cinnamon and chipotle chile powder (or cayenne pepper powder). Drop dough by large tablespoonfuls (or up to 1/4 cup full) on prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle a pinch of dusting mixture over each cookie and bake 12 to 16 minutes, until tops are evenly cracked, but cookies are not yet firm to touch. (For smaller cookies, bake 9 to 11 minutes.) Remove from oven and cool completely on baking sheets.
Makes about 5 dozen 1-inch cookies.
Note: This recipe must be prepared in advance. The amount of cornstarch is correct. Dulce de leche (also called cajeta or manjar) is a thick caramel made from sweetened condensed milk. It can be purchased in the international foods aisles of many supermarkets; one brand name is La Lechera. Unsweetened, desiccated (dried) flaked coconut can be purchased at most natural foods co-ops. This 2004 winner (pronounced ahl-fa-hor-ace) is from Graciela Cuadrado-Vielguth of Minneapolis. "They're putzy," Cuadrado-Vielguth admitted, "which is why when my kids say, 'Why don't you make Alfajores?' I tell them, 'OK, I'll make them, but you have to put them together."'
• 1/2 c. flour, plus extra for rolling dough
• 11/4 c. cornstarch
• 1 tsp. baking powder
• 1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, softened
• 3/4 c. sugar
• 1 egg
• 1 egg yolk
• Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
• 1 (13.4 oz.) can dulce de leche (see Note)
• 11/2 c. coconut flakes, preferably unsweetened and desiccated
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch and baking powder and reserve.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add egg and egg yolk and beat well. Add lemon zest and beat well. Add flour mixture to butter-egg mixture and thoroughly combine. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out dough to 1/4 -inch thickness. Cut in rounds of desired size (between 1 and 2 inches), rerolling and recutting dough until all is used.
Place dough rounds about 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets and bake 11 to 12 minutes, making sure cookies do not brown. Remove from oven and immediately transfer cookies to parchment paper or waxed paper and cool completely. (Cookies may be stored up to a week in an airtight container until ready to assemble.)
To assemble, take 1 cookie and spread flat side with about 1/2 teaspoon dulce de leche (more for larger cookies). Place flat side of another cookie on top of spread, as if making a sandwich. Spread a very thin layer of dulce de leche around sandwich edge and roll edge in coconut flakes.
Makes about 3 dozen.
Note: This 2003 winner, which really stands out on a plate crowded with other cookies, is from Sherryl Joos of Plymouth. "They grab the eye," she said. "People always say, 'Wow!' And they taste so good. I watched my mom make them from when I was kid. I've been hooked on them ever since."
• 11/3 c. walnuts, divided
• 1/3 c. granulated sugar
• 1 c. evaporated milk, divided
• 1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
• 1/4 c. firmly packed brown sugar
• 1/4 c. sifted powdered sugar
• 1/4 tsp. salt
• 1 egg
• 1 tsp. vanilla extract
• 2 c. sifted flour
• Round, colored toothpicks
• 1 (14 oz.) pkg. caramels (such as Kraft), unwrapped
• 1 to 2 tbsp. milk, if necessary
To make filling: In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse walnuts until finely ground and reserve.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine 1/3 cup of ground walnuts (reserving remainder), granulated sugar and 1/3 cup evaporated milk and cook, stirring constantly, until very thick, about 5 minutes. Cool and reserve.
To make dough: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter, brown sugar, powdered sugar and salt until creamy. Add egg and vanilla extract and beat well. Reduce speed to low and gradually add flour, mixing until just combined.
Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Make a depression in ball with your thumb and drop 1/4 teaspoon sweetened walnut filling into depression. Reshape cookie into a ball, enclosing filling.
Place cookies about 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets and bake 15 to 18 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from oven, cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes, transfer cookies to a wire rack, insert a rounded colored wooden toothpick into top of each cookie and cool completely.
To make caramel coating: In a double boiler over simmering water, combine caramels and remaining 2/3 cup evaporated milk and heat until caramels melt, stirring occasionally (if mixture is too thick, thin with 1 to 2 tablespoons milk).
Remove from heat, but keep caramel coating warm over hot water (if using a microwave oven, cook in 1-minute intervals, stirring and repeating until caramels are melted). Dip cookies into caramel coating, allowing excess caramel to drip off (cookies can be double-dipped). Dip bottom of cookie in remaining ground walnuts and place on waxed paper to set.