Fourteen years and 72 delicious winners and finalists later, these are the Taste Holiday Cookie Contest recipes that we find ourselves returning to, over and over.  

Orange-Chocolate Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Note: This 2007 winner is from Eileen Troxel of St. Paul, who adapted the recipe from Traditional Home.

• 1 c. (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature, plus extra for chocolate dipping sauce

• 1 c. sugar

• 1 egg yolk

• 2 tsp. freshly grated orange zest

• 2 c. flour, plus extra for rolling dough

• 1/4 c. orange marmalade, divided

• 6 oz. bittersweet chocolate

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter until creamy, about 1 minute. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Add egg yolk and orange zest, and beat until thoroughly combined. Reduce speed to low, add flour and mix until just incorporated.

On a lightly floured work surface, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Using a 1 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, cut dough into rounds, and place cookies 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough, gathering up scraps, re-rolling and cutting until all dough is used. Using your thumb, make a slight indentation in center of cookie and fill with 1/4 teaspoon orange marmalade. Bake until edges are lightly browned, about 12 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 2 minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

In a double boiler over gently 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 wax paper until chocolate sets. 

Pistachio-Orange Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen sandwich cookies.

Note: This 2010 winner is from Scott Rohr of St. Paul.

For cookies:

• 2 c. flour

•1 tsp. salt

• 2 tsp. cream of tartar

• 1 tsp. baking soda

• 1 c. (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature

• 1/2 c. granulated sugar, plus extra for rolling dough

• 1/2 c. firmly packed brown sugar

• 1 egg

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

For filling:

• 1 c. raw shelled pistachios, divided

• 1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, at room temperature

• Freshly grated zest of 1 orange, finely chopped

• 1 tsp. orange extract

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

• 3 c. powdered sugar

• 2 tbsp. milk (or use 1 tbsp. milk and 1 tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice)

Directions

To prepare cookies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, cream of tartar and baking soda, and reserve.

In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg and vanilla extract and beat until thoroughly combined. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture, in thirds, mixing until just incorporated.

Form dough into 1/2-inch balls (about the size of a chestnut). Roll dough balls in granulated sugar and place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake until cookies are set but not browned, about 11 minutes (cookies will puff up in oven, but flatten). Remove from oven and cool 2 minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

To prepare filling: In food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse 1/2 cup pistachios until very fine (the nuts should almost clump together in a paste between your fingers).

In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter with orange zest until light and fluffy. Add orange extract and vanilla extract and mix until thoroughly combined.

Reduce speed to low and add powdered sugar, in thirds, alternating with milk (or milk and orange juice), beginning and ending with powdered sugar, and beat until smooth (you may need another tablespoon or so of liquid to reach desired consistency). Fold in pistachios, mixing until thoroughly incorporated.

To assemble cookies: Finely chop remaining 1/2 cup pistachios and place in a shallow dish. Spread a generous dollop of filling on bottom of a cookie. Top with another cookie, bottom-side up as if making a sandwich, and gently press cookies together until filling is just at edge of cookies. Roll filled edge in chopped pistachios. Repeat until all cookies form sandwiches. 

Cranberry Pecan Swirls

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Note: This dough must be prepared in advance. This 2012 finalist is from Annette Poole of Prior Lake.

• 1 1/2 c. flour, plus extra for rolling dough

• 1/4 tsp. baking powder

• 1/4 tsp. salt

• 1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, at room temperature

• 3/4 c. sugar

• 1 egg

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

• 1/3 c. finely chopped fresh cranberries

• 1/2 c. ground pecans

• 1 tbsp. freshly grated orange zest

Directions

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt, and reserve.

In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg and vanilla extract, and beat until thoroughly combined. Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

In a small bowl, combine cranberries, pecans and orange zest.

On a lightly floured work surface, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll dough to a 10-inch square. Sprinkle cranberry mixture over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border on two opposite sides. Roll dough, jelly-roll fashion, beginning at one of the borders and rolling toward the other border. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze at least 8 hours.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Unwrap dough logs and, using a sharp knife, trim off uneven ends. Cut dough into 1/4-inch thick slices and place cookies (flat side down) 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake until lightly browned, 14 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 2 minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Almond Palmiers

Makes 2 to 3 dozen cookies.

Note: This recipe must be prepared in advance. Palmiers (pronounced pahlm-YAYs) go by many other names, including elephant ears, palm leaves and French hearts. We prefer using all-butter Dufour puff pastry, available in the frozen foods section of Whole Foods Market and many natural food co-ops. This 2011 finalist is from Kay Lieberherr of St. Paul.

• 4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

• 1/4 c. powdered sugar, plus extra for garnish, optional

• 1 (7-ounce) tube almond paste, cut into small pieces

• 1 egg

• 1/2 tsp. almond extract

• 1/4 c. granulated sugar, divided

• 1 (17.3-oz.) pkg. puff pastry sheets (containing 2 sheets), refrigerated

Directions

In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter until creamy, about 1 minute. Add powdered sugar and almond paste. Beat until creamy, about 1 minute. Add egg and almond extract, and beat until thoroughly combined.

Sprinkle work surface with 1 tablespoon granulated sugar. Carefully unfold 1 puff pastry sheet over sugar and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon granulated sugar. Using a rolling pin, roll puff pastry sheet into a 12-inch square. Divide almond paste mixture in half. Carefully spread half of almond paste mixture evenly over top of puff pastry sheet. Starting on both sides, roll opposite sides of puff pastry sheet, from the outer edge to the middle, with rolls meeting in the center. Firmly press together, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 2 days. Repeat with second puff pastry sheet.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Unwrap puff pastry logs and, using a sharp knife, trim off uneven ends. Cut dough into 1/4-inch slices and place (flat side down) 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 2 minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired, and serve.

Almond Triangles

Makes about 6 dozen bar cookies.

Note: This dough must be prepared in advance. This 2009 winner is from Charlotte Midthun of Granite Falls, Minn., who adapted the recipe from First for Women magazine.

• 2 c. (4 sticks) butter, at room temperature, divided

• 3/4 c. granulated sugar, divided

•1 egg

• 3/4 tsp. almond extract

• 1/2 tsp. salt

• 2 3/4 c. flour

• 1 c. packed brown sugar

• 1/3 c. honey

• 1/4 c. heavy cream

• 1 lb. (about 5 1/4 c.) sliced almonds

Directions

Carefully line a 10- by 15-inch jelly roll pan with aluminum foil, shiny side up.

In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat 1 cup (2 sticks) butter until creamy, about 1 minute. Gradually add 1/2 cup granulated sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg, almond extract and salt, and beat until thoroughly combined. Reduce speed to low, add flour and mix until just incorporated. Press dough evenly into pan and push dough up sides. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Using a fork, prick dough in 20 to 24 places all across dough and bake 10 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer pan to a wire rack to cool.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine brown sugar, honey, remaining 1 cup (2 sticks) butter and remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar, and cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium-high, bring mixture to a boil and cook for 3 minutes without stirring.

Remove from heat and stir in cream. Stir in almonds. Spread almond mixture evenly over crust. Return pan to oven and bake until bubbling, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer pan to a wire rack to cool. While bars are still slightly warm, cut into triangles. 

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Note: This 2014 finalist is from Karen Evans of Minneapolis.

For cookies:

• 1 1/2 c. flour

• 1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder

• 1/4 tsp. salt

• 1/4 tsp. baking powder

• 1/4 tsp. baking soda

• 1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

• 1 c. granulated sugar

• 1 egg

• 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

For topping:

• 3 tbsp. butter, at room temperature

• 2 c. powdered sugar

• 1 tsp. peppermint extract

• 1 to 3 tbsp. milk (or heavy cream)

• 1/3 c. crushed hard peppermint candies (such as candy canes)

Directions

To prepare cookies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder and baking soda, and reserve.

In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat 1/2 cup butter until creamy, about 1 minute. Add granulated sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg and vanilla extract, and beat until thoroughly combined. Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture and mix until just incorporated.

Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Place dough 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, flattening dough slightly. Bake until cookies are set and dry-looking, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 2 minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

To prepare topping: In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, combine 3 tablespoons butter and powdered sugar, and beat until creamy. Add peppermint extract and enough milk (or cream), 1 tablespoon at a time, and mix until smooth.

Spread icing across the top of each cookie, then press iced cookies into crushed peppermint candies.