With Christmas just a few days away, cookie bakers are rapidly approaching the now-or-never wall.
Those in need of recipe inspiration could look no further than the Star Tribune's treasure trove of holiday cookies (find it here), an easy-to-navigate assortment of 70-plus recipes that have come from 14 iterations of the Taste Holiday Cookie Contest.
Our 2016 winners are particularly noteworthy. Chocolate fan? Consider our grand prize entry, Nut Goodie Thumbprints. Baking for a crowd? You'll love Almond Ricotta Bars. On the hunt for something a bit different? And easy to prepare? Then Brandy Cherry Cookies are the solution. (In the above image -- by Star Tribune photographer Tom Wallace -- Almond Ricotta Bars are at the top, Nut Goodie Thumbprints are in the middle and Brandy Cherry Cookies are in the foreground).
Another option is to check out winners in other newspaper cookie recipe contests. This year's batch has yielded no shortage of appealing ideas. Here's a rundown:
In its eighth annual competition, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has hailed Pecan Praline Thumbprints as its Best of Show Winner ("rich and buttery, filled with scrumptious pecan praline," they write) and handed its first place honors in its Professional Winners category to Crystallized Ginger Crisps.
The Dallas Morning News splits its 21-year-old contest into a number of categories, including "Decorated," "Boozy" (cheers to that one), "Easy" and "Special Diet." The recipe that sounds most promising? The first place winner in "Bar," Muddy Mississippi Moon Pie Bars, which melds "the graham cracker, gooey chocolate and marshmallow elements of classic Moon Pies."
White Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch Cookies -- "a delightful combination of sweet and salty" -- took top honors at the Baltimore Sun.
The contest at the Chicago Tribune is probably the nation's oldest (it began in 1986, and when the paper dropped it 1999, the outcry from readers was so great that the feature was resumed the following year) and 2016's winners all sound highly bakeable. Top prize went to Butterhorns, "icing-drizzled golden rolls" that are "folded over with jewel-tone preserves peeking from the ends." Think apricot, raspberry, blueberry or cherry preserves, or Nutella, a kid's favorite.
Finally, while it's not derived from a contest -- and it will forever fuel the Can-You-Call-A-Bar-A-Cookie? debate (and yes, you can!), it's always a treat to return to the website at the Oregonian for a peek at Cranberry Ecstacy Bars. This gotta-bake formula is a knockoff of Starbucks' popular Cranberry Bliss Bars, and a plate of them practically sings "Christmas party." It was developed in 2006 by Linda Faus, the newspaper's test kitchen director, and it's one of those recipes that's destined to become a classic.