Selecting five finalists out of more than 300 submissions isn't easy. Here are three more recipes that impressed our judges.
LEMON COCONUT COOKIES
Makes about 3 dozen cookies.
"A few years ago I stopped by my cousin's home in a small west-central town," wrote Barb Roles of Chokio, Minn. "She served these wonderful little tea cookies with coffee. They have been a family favorite ever since. I make them at Christmas time and when I have special tea parties with my granddaughters."
• 3/4 c. (11/2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
• 1/2 c. granulated sugar, plus extra for pressing dough
• 1 egg yolk
• 1 tsp. vanilla extract
• 1/2 tsp. lemon extract
• 11/2 c. flour
• 11/2 c. flake coconut
• 4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) butter, at room temperature
• 1/4 tsp. salt
• 2 c. powdered sugar
• 1 tsp. freshly grated lemon zest
• 4 to 6 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
To prepare cookies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg yolk, vanilla extract and lemon extract, and beat until thoroughly combined. Reduce speed to low, add flour and mix until just incorporated. Add coconut and mix until just incorporated.
Form dough into walnut-size balls and place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Dip a fork in sugar and press dough balls flat. Bake until lightly golden, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 2 minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
To prepare icing: In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, salt, powdered sugar, lemon zest and 4 teaspoons lemon juice until thoroughly combined. If icing is too thick, add more lemon juice, 1 teaspoon at a time, to reach desired consistency. Spread icing over cookies.
HOLIDAY BREW PINWHEELS
Makes about 2 dozen cookies.
Note: This dough must be prepared in advance. A pale ale may be used in place of the Blue Moon brand beer. "Every family has at least one member with great aspirations," wrote Jenna and Dori Duesterhoeft of Minneapolis. "In our family we have an aspiring brewmaster. We decided to try a cookie that would feature some of his wonderful home-brewed beer. For this recipe we used Blue Moon since the holiday brews are still aging. A sweet beer reduction syrup is used to flavor the date filling in this orange spice cookie. The smells while baking -- and the taste of the cookie -- both say 'Christmas.'"
For beer syrup:
• 2 (12-oz.) bottles Blue Moon beer
• 5 tbsp. honey
• 8 oz. chopped dates
• 3/4 c. granulated sugar
• 1/3 c. beer syrup
• 21/2 tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice
• 4 c. flour
• 1 tsp. baking soda
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
• 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
• 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
• 1 c. (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
• 1 c. brown sugar
• 1 c. granulated sugar
• 3 eggs
• 1 tsp. vanilla extract
• 1 tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice
• Freshly grated zest from 1 orange
• 1 c. powdered sugar
• 1 tbsp. beer syrup
• 2 tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice
• Granulated sugar and freshly grated orange zest, for garnish
To prepare beer syrup: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine beer and honey and cook until mixture reduces to 1/2 cup. Remove from heat and cool.
To prepare filling: In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine dates, sugar, 1/3 cup beer syrup and orange juice. Bring to a boil and cook until mixture is thick. Remove from heat and cool.
To prepare dough: In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon, and reserve.
In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla extract, orange juice and orange zest, and beat until thoroughly combined. Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. Divide dough in half, shape into discs, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
Unwrap 1 dough disc and place between 2 sheets of wax paper. Using a rolling pin, roll dough into a rectangle, about 1/4-inch thick. Remove top sheet of wax paper. Using half the filling, spread evenly over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border on each edge. Start with the dough's long side and roll dough, jelly roll fashion, peeling away bottom layer of wax paper as you go. Wrap dough log in plastic wrap. Repeat with second dough disc. Refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours.
To assemble cookies: When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Unwrap dough and trim off uneven ends. Cut dough into 1/4 -inch slices and place cookies (flat side down) 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake until lightly golden, about 9 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 2 minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack. Spread glaze across cookies and sprinkle with orange zest and sugar, then cool completely.
Makes 2 to 3 dozen cookies.
"It all started when I fell in love with a Polish boy," wrote Rachel Sherwood of Minneapolis. "Little did I know it would turn my world of cooking upside down. Myself being of German and Italian descent, I had never heard of half the items my new fiancé wanted to eat. I set out with determination to make things like pierogi, borscht and cabbage rolls. Then it all changed when I turned to sweets to make Kolaczki, traditionally a semisweet wedding cookie filled with jam. ... I decided to tie my Italian cooking skills into the Polish world, and decided to create the Pinwheel Kolaczki. I remember having this little, date-filled pinwheel cookie when I was traveling in Italy. Many Polish sweets tend to use poppyseeds, so I thought I would put them together. Since Kolaczki are traditionally served at weddings, I plan to make my new Italian/Polish treat the first of many blended family traditions at my wedding next year."
• 2 c. flour, plus extra for rolling dough
• 11/2 c. (3 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 6 tbsp. ice water
• 1 c. poppyseeds
• 1/4 c. raisins
• 2 tbsp. butter
• 1/4 c. superfine sugar
• 2 tbsp. whole milk
• 2 tbsp. honey
• 1/2 tsp. almond extract
• 1 egg white, slightly beaten
• 1 tbsp. butter, melted
• 3/4 c. powdered sugar
• 1 tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice
• 1/4 tsp. almond extract
To prepare dough: In a bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine flour, butter and salt, and pulse until butter is finely cut into flour. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue to pulse until dough just begins to come together.
On a lightly floured work surface, shape dough into a rectangle, short end toward you and long end pointing away. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll dough out lengthwise away from you, until it is about 18 to 24 inches long. The dough may stick to the rolling pin; it is just the butter beginning to get worked in. Just wipe off the dough on the rolling pin, re-flour the rolling pin and keep rolling.
Take the top end of the rectangle (the farthest from you), lift the dough and fold it halfway over, to the center. Take the bottom end of the rectangle (the closest to you), lift the dough and fold it halfway over, to the center, meeting the other folded dough. The dough will resemble a book. Fold the two sides together, as if closing the book, to form a small rectangle. Turn the dough a quarter turn and repeat the process three more times, rolling and folding (and re-flouring the work surface and the rolling pin, as needed) for four complete "book" turns.
Press dough together slightly to form a small rectangle, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate while you prepare the filling.
To prepare filling: Grind poppyseeds in a coffee grinder. Place ground seeds in a bowl, cover with boiling water and set aside 30 minutes to soften. Drain seeds into a strainer set with a clean flour sack towel to catch all the seeds, and gently squeeze out the excess water.
In a bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, add raisins and pulse until finely chopped.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add poppyseeds, raisins, sugar, milk, honey and almond extract, and bring mixture to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until filling is slightly thickened and most of the moisture is gone, about 5 to 8 minutes (it will look like a slightly wet paste). Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Add egg white to filling and stir to combine.
To prepare cookies: Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Unwrap dough and place on a lightly floured work surface. Cut dough into 3 equal pieces (you will only use 2 of the pieces, unless you make a double batch of the filling; the remaining third can be frozen, or filled with your favorite holiday spread, cheese or meats for a last-minute appetizer; prepare and bake according to the cookie instructions below). Working with one section at a time, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll dough out to a rectangle, 12 inches long, 8 inches wide and about 1/8-inch thick. Spread half of filling over dough (filling should be about twice as thick as dough), leaving a 11/2-inch border on one of the sides, and a 1/2-inch border on the remaining three sides; for smaller cookies, leave the 11/2-inch border on one of the long sides, and for larger cookies leave the 11/2-inch border on one of the short sides.
Carefully roll the dough over filling, jelly roll style, ending just before the 11/2-inch border. Brush the 11/2-inch open side with water and slightly pinch dough together to seal the seam. Place the tube seam-side down and, using a sharp serrated knife, trim off uneven ends. Cut dough into 1/4 -inch slices and place cookies (flat side down) 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake until slightly golden on the edges, about 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 2 minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
To prepare icing: In a microwave-safe bowl, melt butter. Add powdered sugar, orange juice and almond extract, and whisk until icing reaches pouring consistency. Pour icing into a small plastic bag. Slightly cut off the tip of one corner to make a piping bag, and drizzle cookies with icing.