The recipe: Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

Why you should bake: Because the tender, chocolaty cookie is a simple-pleasures treat, and it’s made even better with the buttery, peppermint-laced icing and the crunch of the peppermint garnish. Also, their festive appearance definitely stands out on a crowded cookie tray.

Degree of difficulty: A beginner’s cookie, and fun to prepare with kids, especially the icing and pressing-into-the-candy stages.

What we didn’t tell you: Play around with the peppermint candies to determine the level of crush-i-ness that you prefer. Some like big chunks of hard candy, others favor a near-powdered form.

Fun fact: Baker Karen Evans began making this one -- a variation on a recipe she encountered in the pages of the Cincinnati Enquirer -- about 20 years ago. It quickly became her family's "all-time favorite." Here's a gauge of Evans' affection for this recipe: When the family relocated to Morocco, she asked visiting friends to be sure to pack candy canes in their suitcases because the sweets weren't available locally.

Note: To coincide with our 13th-annual Taste Holiday Cookie Contest, we're revisiting some favorites from past competitions. Find our easy-to-navigate archive here.

CHOCOLATE PEPPERMINT COOKIES
Makes about 2 dozen cookies.
Note: From 2014 finalist 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.

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