Pastry chefs told us which ones were tops: Swedish Almond Macaroons, Orange Chocolate Cookies and Taffy Treats.
SWEDISH ALMOND-CHOCOLATE MACAROONS
Makes 2 to 3 dozen cookies.
Note: This dough must be prepared in advance. Pasteurized eggs are recommended for food safety reasons. The Swedish cookies are also known as Choklad Biskvier. Our 2011 winner is from Beth Jones of Owatonna, Minn.
• 2 (7-oz.) tubes almond paste, cut into small pieces
• 2 egg whites
• 1/2 c. granulated sugar
• 1 c. (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
• 1 c. powdered sugar
• 2 tsp. vanilla extract
• 2 pasteurized egg yolks (see Note)
• 4 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
For chocolate coating:
• 10 to 12 oz. dark or bittersweet chocolate
• 2 to 4 tsp. vegetable oil or melted butter
To prepare cookies: In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, beat almond paste and egg whites until thoroughly combined, about 2 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Using a small scoop, form dough into balls (or drop by heaping teaspoons) and place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Moisten the flat bottom of a glass with water, dip into granulated sugar and carefully press prepared glass bottom into dough balls, flattening dough; repeat with remaining dough. Bake until lightly brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 5 minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
To prepare filling: Line baking sheets with wax paper.
In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter until creamy, about 1 minute. Add powdered sugar, vanilla extract, egg yolks and cocoa powder, and mix until smooth (scraping down sides of bowl as necessary), about 2 minutes. Using a small knife, spread about 1 tablespoon filling on top of each cookie, making a rounded top. Transfer cookies to prepared baking sheets and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
To prepare chocolate coating: Break chocolate into small pieces. In a double boiler over gently simmering water (or in a microwave oven), melt chocolate. Whisk in 2 teaspoons vegetable oil (or melted butter), adding more to reach desired consistency. Let mixture cool for a few minutes, then dip tops of cookies into chocolate mixture, holding onto almond base. Return cookies to prepared baking sheets and refrigerate until chocolate hardens, at least 30 minutes. Store in refrigerator and serve chilled.
ORANGE CHOCOLATE COOKIES
Makes about 3 dozen cookies.
Note: Our 2007 winner is from Eileen Troxel of St. Paul, who adapted the recipe from Traditional Home magazine.
• 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
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 11/2-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.
Makes about 3 dozen cookies.
Note: Our 2003 winner is from Sherryl Joos of Plymouth.
• 1 1/3 c. walnuts, divided
• 1/3 c. granulated sugar
• 1 c. evaporated milk, divided
• 1/2 c. (1 stick) butter
• 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. flour
• Round, colored toothpicks
• 1 (14-oz.) package caramels, unwrapped
• 1 to 2 tbsp. water, if necessary
To prepare filling: In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse walnuts until finely chopped. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine 1/3 cup of ground walnuts (reserve remaining walnuts), granulated sugar and 1/3 cup evaporated milk, and cook, stirring constantly, until very thick, about 5 minutes. Cool and reserve.
To prepare dough: 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, brown sugar, powdered sugar and salt until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg and vanilla extract and beat until thoroughly combined. Reduce speed to low, add flour and mix until just incorporated.
Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Make a depression in ball with your thumb and drop 1/4 teaspoon filling into depression. Reshape cookie into a ball, enclosing the filling. Place cookies 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets and bake 15 to 18 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool 2 minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack. Insert a rounded colored wooden toothpick into top of each cookie and cool completely.
To prepare caramel coating: In a double boiler over gently simmering water, combine caramels and remaining 2/3 cup evaporated milk and heat until caramels melt, stirring occasionally (if too thick, thin with water, 1 tablespoon at a time). Remove from heat but keep mixture warm over hot water. (If using a microwave oven, melt caramels in 1-minute intervals, stirring and repeating until caramel is melted.)
Dip cookies into caramel coating, allowing excess caramel to drop off (cookies can be double-dipped). Dip bottom of cookie in remaining ground walnuts and place on wax or parchment paper to set.