COOKIECOVER4-FE-111215-JEL

2016 Holiday Treat Recipe Contest Winners

First Place in “Drop Cookies” category : Rosemary Sugar Cookies.

Rosemary Sugar Cookies

These cookies from Sharon Morf, 51, of Raleigh won first place in the drop cookies category of the 2016 Holiday Treat Contest. They also tied for the contest’s grand prize winner. Morf’s recipe calls for 4 tablespoons minced rosemary; our recipe tester only used 2 teaspoons minced rosemary.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter

1 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

1 cup granulated white sugar, plus more for rolling cookies

1 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

5 cups all-purpose flour

4 tablespoons minced rosemary, divided, to taste

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream together butter and oil. Add eggs, sugars, vanilla and almond extracts.

Combine baking soda, baking powder, salt, cream of tartar, flour and up to 2 tablespoons rosemary, to taste. Slowly add flour mixture to butter mixture until fully combined.

Roll into 1-inch diameter balls, dip in granular sugar and place on a silicone baking sheet and flatten the balls to approximately 1/4-inch thick. Sprinkle remaining rosemary on top of the cookies before baking.

Bake 12 to 15 minutes. If not eaten immediately, store leftovers in an airtight container.

Yield: 40 to 65 cookies, depending upon size

Second Place in “Drop Cookies” category : Chocolate Peppermint Cookies.

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

These cookies from Edward T. McClain, 47, of Bunn won second place in the drop cookies category of the 2016 Holiday Treat Contest.

1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

1 1/2-ounces crushed hard peppermint candies

1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream together white sugar, brown sugar, butter and vanilla extract until fluffy. Add egg to the mixture and beat until blended. Add flour, baking soda and salt. Beat in extract. Then add peppermint candies and chocolate chips.

Drop dough by tablespoonfuls, two inches apart, on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly brown.

Yield: about 30 cookies

First Place in “Other Cookies” category : Fudgy Raspberry Cheesecake Squares.

Fudgy Raspberry Cheesecake Squares

These cookies from Anne Brill, 70, of Cary won first place in the other cookies category of the 2016 Holiday Treat Contest. Our recipe tester also tried a cost-conscious version of this recipe, using only 10 ounces chocolate chips and 6 ounces raspberries with great results.

Cooking Spray

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate (60 percent cacao), bits or chopped bar

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

2 1/3 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated white sugar, divided

6 eggs, at room temperature, divided

8 ounces full fat cream cheese

1 cup sour cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

12 ounces raspberries

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, allowing two of the sides to overlap. Spray foil liberally with cooking spray and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk the flour, salt and cocoa powder together. Set aside.

Place the chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler over simmering water (with water not touching the bottom of the top pan), stirring occasionally until mixture is smooth. Turn off the heat and add 2 cups sugar, whisking until combined.

In a separate large mixing bowl, lightly whisk 5 eggs until yolks and whites are just combined, then slowly add the chocolate mixture (so eggs don’t scramble) to the eggs, whisking continually until just combined. Take care not to whisk or stir more than minimally necessary or chocolate layer may be cakey rather than fudgy.

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture, and, using a rubber spatula, fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is still visible. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

Bake the chocolate layer for 20 minutes while you prepare the cheesecake layer.

Soften cream cheese approximately 30 seconds in the microwave. Then in a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese, 1/3 cup sugar, 1 egg, sour cream and vanilla, beating with a mixer until smooth. After removing the chocolate layer from the oven, pour the cream cheese layer over the chocolate layer, carefully covering the chocolate layer.

Place 1 cup raspberries in a mesh sieve over a small bowl and press with the back of a spoon, extracting the juice into the bowl, scraping the bottom of the sieve and throwing away the seeds remaining in the sieve. Stir the 2 tablespoons sugar into the raspberry juice.

Using either a small spoon or a small squeeze bottle, drizzle the raspberry juice over the cheesecake. (Parallel lines placed 1/2 inch apart the long way, adding dots randomly throughout works well, but any design can be used.) Using a small skewer, carefully swirl the raspberry juice throughout the cheesecake layer (not touching the chocolate layer with the skewer).

Return the pan to the oven to bake an additional 35 to 40 minutes. Chocolate layer should be fudgy and cheesecake layer creamy but not jiggly in the center; remove from the oven if cheesecake layer starts to lightly brown. Cool in the pan and then lift the aluminum foil out onto a large cutting board and cut into desired size. These will be soft but will set up more in fridge. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Before serving, cut remaining raspberries in half and decorate each square with 1/2 raspberry for a pretty presentation.

Yield: about 30 bars

Second Place in “Other Cookies” category : Spiced Brown Butter Linzer Cookies.

Spiced Brown Butter Linzer Cookies

These cookies from Edward T. McClain, 47, of Bunn tied for second place in the other cookies category of the 2016 Holiday Treat Contest.

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter

3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper

3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling cookies

1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

1 egg, at room temperature

2 egg yolks, at room temperature

Powdered sugar

1/2 cup red currant jelly

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring often until butter foams, then browns, from 5 to 8 minutes. Scrape into a large bowl and let cool.

Whisk together salt, baking powder, cardamom, cloves, pepper and flour in a medium bowl.

Add granulated sugar and lemon zest to butter. Scrape vanilla seeds and add to butter.

Use electric mixer to beat butter-sugar mixture until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in egg and yolks, one at a time. Reduce speed to low and add dry ingredients in three batches.

Turn out dough onto a surface and knead until no dry spots remain. Divide dough in half, wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 2 hours.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Bring half dough out of refrigerator, let sit on counter about 5 minutes. Roll dough out on a lightly-floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes with 3-inch cookie cutters; transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing 1/2-inch apart. Gather scraps, re-roll and cut into more shapes. Place full cookie sheets in refrigerator for 15 minutes, then bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until golden brown around edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cookies cool on baking sheets.

Bring remaining dough out of refrigerator, let sit on counter about 5 minutes. Roll dough out on a lightly-floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes with 3-inch cookie cutters, then cut out center with a 1-inch cookie cutter; transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing 1/2-inch apart. Gather scraps, re-roll and cut into more shapes. Place full cookie sheets in refrigerator for 15 minutes, then bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until golden brown around edges, 10 to 12 minutes.

Let cookies cool on baking sheets.

Dust cutout cookies with powdered sugar. Stir jelly to smooth and spread 3/4 teaspoons jelly on complete cookies. Top with powdered cutouts. Let sit until jam is set, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Yield: about 20 cookies

Orange Macadamia Nut Cookies tied for second place in the other cookies category of the 2016 Holiday Treat Contest.

Orange Macadamia Nut Cookies

This recipe from Lisa Pleasants of Raleigh, Gail Pleasants of Wake Forest and Susan Galleo of Dunn tied for second place in the other cookies category of the 2016 Holiday Treat Contest. You can substitute walnuts for macadamia nuts.

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups powdered sugar, divided

1/2 cup cornstarch

1 cup (2 sticks) plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts

1 egg yolk

2 teaspoons finely shredded orange zest, divided

3 to 4 tablespoons orange juice, divided

Granulated white sugar

Finely chopped macadamia nuts

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine flour, 1 cup powdered sugar and cornstarch. Using a pastry blender, cut in 1 cup (2 sticks) butter until mixture resembles course crumbs. Stir in nuts.
In a small bowl, combine the egg yolk, 1 1/2 teaspoons orange zest and 2 tablespoons orange juice. Add egg yolk mixture to flour mixture, stirring until moistened. Pull and knead dough with hands until it forms a ball.

Shape dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Spray the bottom of a glass with cooking spray and then dip glass in granulated sugar; use glass to flatten each ball into 1/4-inch thickness.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until edges are set and surfaces are dry. Transfer cookies to a wire rack; cool.

Make frosting: combine 1 cup powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons softened butter and 1/2 teaspoon orange zest. Stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons orange juice to make spreading consistency.

Frost cookies with orange frosting and sprinkle with finely chopped macadamia nuts.

To store, layer cookies between waxed paper in an airtight container, cover.

Yield: 36 cookies

First Place in “Chocolate Candies” category : Cran-Marnier Truffles.

Cran-Marnier Truffles

This recipe from Jennifer Smith of Apex tied for first place in the chocolate candies category of the 2016 Holiday Treat Contest. It also tied for the contest’s grand prize winner.

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for buttering

1 1/2 cups sugar

5 ounces evaporated milk

2 cups mini marshmallows

8 ounces premium dark baking chocolate, chopped

1 tablespoon Grand Marnier

2 teaspoons finely shredded orange zest

1/2 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped

12 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

2 tablespoons shortening

Flaky sea salt

Butter the sides of a heavy 2-quart saucepan. In the saucepan, combine butter, sugar and evaporated milk. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until mixture comes to a rolling boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for exactly 6 minutes, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low.
Add marshmallows, dark chocolate, Grand Marnier and orange zest to the saucepan mixture. Stir until melted and smooth. Remove from heat. Stir in the dried cranberries and beat by hand for 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Cover and chill about 3 hours or until firm.

Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper. Shape the chilled chocolate mixture into 1-inch balls. Place balls on the prepared cookie sheet. Cover and chill in refrigerator for about 1 hour or until firm.

In a medium microwave-safe bowl, microwave the semisweet chocolate and the shortening until melted and smooth, usually 1 minute, stir and then see if it needs more time. Cool slightly.

Dip chocolate balls, one at a time, into the melted chocolate, allowing the excess to drip back into the bowl. Return the chocolate dipped balls to the cookie sheet and sprinkle tops with the sea salt. Chill for about 30 minutes or until the chocolate is set.

Yield: about 36 truffles

Winner in “Other Candies” category : Toffee Triangles.

Toffee Triangles

This recipe from Doris Litchfield, 84, of Raleigh tied for first place in the other candies category of the 2016 Holiday Treat Contest.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup white granulated sugar

1 egg yolk

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 egg white

1 cup chopped pecans

Heat oven to 275 degrees.

Cream butter and sugar. Add egg yolk and cream to combine. Add flour and cinnamon and stir until fully combined.

Press stiff dough into a 12-inch-by-18-inch rimmed baking sheet, creating higher edges. Whisk egg white until frothy. Brush half of the frothy egg white evenly across top of dough. Press chopped nuts into dough.

Bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven and immediately begin to cut 6 times crosswise and 4 times lengthwise. Cut each square diagonally. Remove triangles from pan immediately and store in a tin.

Yield: about 18 cookies

2015 Winners

Salted Orange Caramels Dipped in Coffee Chocolate

The Salted Orange Caramels Dipped in Coffee Chocolate are the first place winner in our "Chocolate Candy" Category and the grand prize winner.

The Salted Orange Caramels Dipped in Coffee Chocolate are the first place winner in our “Chocolate Candy” Category and the grand prize winner.

This is the grand prize winning recipe as well as first place winner in the chocolate candy category. From Anne Brill, 69, of Cary. Her advice: Making caramels can be tricky, but if you follow these cardinal rules, you will be successful. Avoid heat in the higher ranges; brush down sugar crystals from the side of the pan when making the syrup; try not to stir the mixtures; watch your candy thermometer vigilantly; and do not make on a humid day.

Cooking spray

3/4 cup heavy cream

4 tablespoons salted butter, divided and cubed, at room temperature

3/4 teaspoon orange extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons sea salt crystals

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon shortening

1 3/4 teaspoons decaffeinated instant coffee granules

Line an 8- or 9-inch square pan with aluminum foil and spray the inside with cooking spray.

Heat the cream, 2 tablespoons butter, orange extract and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until the mixture begins to boil. Remove from heat, cover, and keep warm while you cook the syrup.

Combine corn syrup and sugar in a 4-quart heavy-duty saucepan, fitted with a candy thermometer. Heat over medium low heat and cook, stirring gently, to make sure the sugar melts smoothly. Wipe down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in hot water to dissolve any sugar crystals on the sides. Once the sugar is evenly moistened, do not stir, but swirl the pan as necessary to keep it from getting any hot spots.

Cook until the syrup reaches 310 degrees. The mixture will turn a deep, golden amber. To get an accurate reading while the syrup is cooking, tilt the saucepan to make sure the bulb of the thermometer is fully submerged.

Turn off the heat and, using a clean spoon, carefully stir in the warm cream mixture (mixture will violently bubble), until smooth.

Turn the heat to medium-low and cook to 260 degrees. This stage requires patience and cannot be rushed. As it cooks, do not stir; swirl the pan if necessary. Be vigilant as the thermometer approaches 260 degrees.

Remove the pan from the heat, lift out the thermometer, and use a clean spoon to stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter until melted and smooth.

Pour the mixture into prepared loaf pan. Set on a wire rack and let cool completely. Once cool, lift out the caramel, peel away foil, and cut caramel with a long, sharp knife into 1-by-1-inch pieces and place them on wax paper.

Measure 2 tablespoons sea salt and put in a zip-top plastic bag and seal. Use meat tenderizer or back of spoon to gently break larger crystals so they are all about the same size, but still large enough to handle easily. Set aside.

Place the chocolate chips and shortening in the top of a double boiler with the bottom pan filled half way up with water, being careful not to have the hot water touch the bottom of the top pan. Heat the chips and shortening over low heat and do not let any water touch the chocolate. Stir occasionally until the chocolate is melted. Add the instant coffee granules and stir, getting the mixture as smooth as possible. (Some granules may still appear, but dipping will be fine.) Taste at this point to determine if you prefer more coffee flavor, in which case add 1 teaspoon more at a time to taste. Remove from heat but keep pan over hot water.

Using your fingers, dip each caramel halfway into the chocolate mixture, covering half of each piece in chocolate. Dip all the pieces and place them on wax paper to set. After all the caramels are dipped, use either your fingers (or tweezers if you prefer) to place a small row of sea salt crystals along the edge of the chocolate across the middle of the caramel. If any chocolate edges are uneven, after the chocolate sets, use a sharp knife to square up the sides.

Storage: These caramels can be placed individually in paper candy cups for boxing or wrapped in waxed paper. They should not be stacked without waxed paper separating them or they could stick together. Store in an air-tight container in a cool place and they will keep for about one month.

Yield: 18-24 pieces
[gpp_icon type=”summary”] Salted Orange Caramels printable

Watch it: Making Homemade Caramels

Charlie Chaplin Candy

The Charlie Chaplins are the second place winner in our "Chocolate Candy" Category.

The Charlie Chaplins are the second place winner in our “Chocolate Candy” Category.

This recipe from Veronica Bucki, 74, of Cary won second place in the chocolate candy category. Bucki wrote: “My mother in-law enjoyed this candy from The Garden of Sweets, a candy-ice cream shop in Buffalo, N.Y. My sister-in-law found or created this recipe which was very similar to the one in the chocolate shop. I make it for my family every holiday.”

12 ounces milk chocolate chips

1 cup crunchy peanut butter

3 cups miniature marshmallows

1 1/2 cups unsweetened, shredded coconut

Place chocolate chips and peanut butter in microwave safe bowl; heat in the microwave for 1 to 2 minutes until melted enough to stir smooth. Add marshmallows, a handful at a time, while stirring. Then stir in coconut. Shape mixture into 3-inch logs and place onto wax paper. Roll up wax paper to cover logs and refrigerate for 1 hour. Slice into one-inch pieces to serve and refrigerate the remainder.

Yield: about 8 logs.

[gpp_icon type=”summary”] Charlie Chaplin Candy printable


 

Pignola Cookies

 

Pine Nut Cookies are a winner in our "Drop Cookies" Category.

Pine Nut Cookies are a winner in our “Drop Cookies” Category.

This recipe from Ginny Nugent of Apex tied for first place in the drop cookie category. Pine nuts can be expensive; Nugent recommends buying them at Trader Joe’s where she has found 8 ounces for $7.99.

3 egg whites

1 cup sugar

1 cup powdered sugar

1 pound (16 ounces) almond paste, cut into 1/4-inch slices

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 1/2 to 2 pounds pine nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place egg whites in a large bowl or the bowl of a mixer; beat on low speed for about 1 minute. Add sugars slowly until blended. Break almond paste into small pieces and drop into batter while blending. Add vanilla and almond extracts.

Place pine nuts in a medium bowl. Set aside.

The batter is very sticky so use an ice cream scoop to pick up batter and form into teaspoon-sized balls. Drop balls of dough into pine nuts and roll to thoroughly coat. Place on baking sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes; check at 10 minutes and remove before they turn light brown.

Yield: about 36 cookies.

[gpp_icon type=”summary”] Pignola Cookies printable


 

Chocolate Pixies

Chocolate Pixies is a winner in our "Drop Cookies" Category.

Chocolate Pixies is a winner in our “Drop Cookies” Category.

These cookies’ powdered sugar coating forms a unique crinkled design during baking. This recipe from Ginny Nugent of Apex tied for first place in the drop cookie category.

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 squares (1 ounce each) unsweetened chocolate

2 cups all-purpose flour, divided

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Powdered sugar for rolling

In a small saucepan, melt butter and chocolate over low heat, 8 to 10 minutes. Cool. In large mixing bowl, combine melted chocolate mixture, 1 cup flour, sugar, eggs, baking powder and salt. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until well mixed, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in remaining 1 cup flour and the nuts. Cover, refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Shape rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into 1-inch balls; roll in powdered sugar. (If making in batches, return dough to refrigerator.) Place 2 inches apart on greased cookie sheets. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until firm to the touch. Remove immediately to wire racks to cool.

Yield: about 4 dozen cookies

[gpp_icon type=”summary”] Chocolate Pixies printable


 

Cheese Wafers

Cheese Wafers are our first place winner in our "Other Cookie" Category.

Cheese Wafers are our first place winner in our “Other Cookie” Category.

This recipe from Marion Laske, 67, of Raleigh won first place in the other cookie category.

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

1 cup grated Gruyere cheese

1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Asiago cheese

1 cup grated mild cheddar or Mexican four cheese blend

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

Cayenne or hot pepper to taste

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary

Sea salt to garnish

2 pounds pecan halves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together butter and all four cheeses, then gradually add flour. Add salt, pepper and rosemary. Mixture should be soft enough to put in cookie press or, alternatively, roll 1 teaspoon of mixture into a ball.

Put cheese balls on ungreased cookie sheet. Press flat with fingers or the back of the fist. Sprinkle with sea salt and top with pecan half. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.

Yield: about 19 dozen

[gpp_icon type=”summary”] Cheese Wafers printable recipe


 

Hungarian Fruit Squares

Hungarian Fruit Squares are our second place winner in our "Other Cookie" Category.

Hungarian Fruit Squares are our second place winner in our “Other Cookie” Category.

This recipe from Barbara Lewandowski, 76, of Cary won second place in the other cookie category.

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, cut into 1/2-inch slices, chilled

2 eggs, beaten

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 (12-ounce) jar apricot preserves

1 (12-ounce) jar seedless raspberry preserves

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Use two forks or a pastry blender to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the butter is reduced to the size of peas.

Add eggs and vanilla to the dough mixture and mix well. Chill between 1/4 to 1/3 of dough for lattice topping.

Press remaining dough onto bottom and sides of an ungreased 151/2-by-101/2-inch jelly roll pan. Spread half of dough with apricot preserves and the other half with raspberry preserves.

Roll chilled remaining dough on slightly floured board or countertop and cut into 1/2 strips. Place strips diagonally across preserves to form a lattice. Press around edge to seal.

Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes or until edges start to turn brown

Cut into squares; larger for dessert portion, smaller for cookie bars. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Yield: about 12 desserts or 24 cookies

[gpp_icon type=”summary”] Hungarian Fruit Squares printable


 

Chai Tea Crescents

Chai Tea Crescents are the third place winner in our "Other Cookie" Category.

Chai Tea Crescents are the third place winner in our “Other Cookie” Category.

This recipe from Jennifer Smith, 43, of Apex came in third place in the other cookie category.

For cookies:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 tablespoon finely ground chai tea leaves (Stash is a good brand. Basically 1 tea bag is enough. A coffee grinder is best.)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

For frosting:

1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened

3 cups powdered sugar, divided

1 tablespoon milk or more as needed

1 teaspoon vanilla

Finely chopped candied ginger

Make the cookies: beat butter with electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar, ground chai tea, vanilla, baking soda and salt. Beat until light and fluffy, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer and the rest by hand, if needed. Divide the dough in half, cover and chill for about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment; set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out half the dough at a time to about 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out crescent shapes using a 2-inch crescent shaped cookie cutter or one large circle cutter and a smaller one to do the same. Place cookies 1 inch apart on cookie sheets.

Bake in the oven for about 8-10 minutes or until the edges are firm and lightly browned. Use a timer and keep an eye on the cookies. They can get real dark, real fast if you’re not paying attention. Cool the cookies on a wire wrack.

Make frosting: Beat 1/3 cup butter with an electric mixer until smooth. Gradually add 1 cup powdered sugar, beating well. Beat in 1 tablespoon milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Add 2 cups of powdered sugar, beating well. If needed, beat in more milk, 1 teaspoon at a time until it’s a spreading consistency.

Once the cookies are cooled, spread each one, end to end, with buttercream. Sprinkle the top with candied ginger. Ice a few cookies at a time and add the ginger before moving on to ice more cookies; otherwise the icing will get a crust and the ginger will not adhere.

Yield: about 48 cookies.

[gpp_icon type=”summary”] Chai Tea Crescents printable recipe


 

Candy Apple Popcorn is the first place winner in "Other Candy" Category.

Candy Apple Popcorn is the first place winner in “Other Candy” Category.

Candy Apple Popcorn

This recipe from Alice Stallings of Raleigh placed first in the other candy category. Stallings has used 3 to 4 large bags of microwave popcorn to make the amount required for this recipe. Stallings and our recipe tester found the candy apple kit at Food Lion and Lowes Foods respectively.

12 to 14 cups popped popcorn

Salt to taste

Cooking spray

1 box candy apple kit

1 cup water

2 1/2 cups sugar

Place popcorn in a large metal bowl and salt to taste; set aside. Lightly grease two rimmed baking sheets with cooking spray; set aside.

Place candy apple mix, water and sugar in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. No stirring is required. Cook to 300 degrees on a candy thermometer. Pour syrup over popcorn and toss with a wooden spoon. Then spoon onto rimmed baking sheets to cool and harden; otherwise, it will be hard to get out of the bowl.

Yield: about 10-12 servings.

[gpp_icon type=”summary”] Candy Apple Popcorn printable


 

 


 

 


 

2014 Winners

Homemade Peppermint Patty Marshmallows

Peppermint-paat-mashmallow-2014

First-place winner in the “Chocolate Candy” category in the 2014 Holiday Treat Contest. Adapted from Travis Lewis of Raleigh.

Cooking spray

Powdered sugar

3 packages unflavored gelatin

1 cup cold water, divided

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup corn syrup

Pinch of salt

2/3 tablespoon peppermint extract

12 ounces dark chocolate

1 ounce white chocolate, optional

1 cup crushed peppermint candies or candy canes, optional

LINE a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with wax or parchment paper. Spray with cooking spray. Sift powdered sugar into the baking dish. Move pan back and forth until bottom and sides are covered. Remove any excess. Set aside.

PLACE gelatin and 1/2 cup cold water in the bowl of a standing mixer.

COMBINE remaining 1/2 cup water, sugar, corn syrup and salt in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring mixture to a boil. Once mixture reaches 240 degrees, remove from heat.

TURN on mixer to medium speed. Slowly pour sugar mixture down the side of the mixing bowl to avoid splashing and potential burns. After two minutes, increase the speed to high and mix for 10-15 minutes. The longer you whip, the stiffer your marshmallows will be. One minute before mixture is fully whipped, add peppermint extract.

COAT spatula with cooking spray and pour mixture into paper-lined baking dish. Work as fast as possible to remove marshmallows from bowl and spread into the corners of the pan. Dust with more powdered sugar and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit at least 4 hours or overnight.

ONCE marshmallows are set, dust work surface with powdered sugar and turn out marshmallows from pan. Remove paper. Cut into 2-inch squares.

MELT dark chocolate in the microwave in 15-second intervals, being careful not to burn the chocolate, or on the stovetop with a double boiler. Once melted, dip your marshmallows and coat them thoroughly, and place on a sheet tray lined with parchment paper. If desired, melt white chocolate in the microwave. Drizzle with white chocolate and sprinkle with crushed peppermints.

Yield: about 30 marshmallows.


Chocolate Chip Walnut Macaroon Cookies

HOLIDAYCOOKIES7-FE-111914-JEL

First-place winner in the “Drop Cookie” category of the 2014 Holiday Treat Contest. Submitted by Linda Joy Willis of Raleigh. (This is the second time Willis has placed in the contest. Last year, she won for her Raspberry, Coconut and Walnut Shortbread Squares.)

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, plus more for buttering parchment paper

9 tablespoons white sugar

9 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar

1 extra large egg

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons self-rising floor

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 10-ounce package 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate chips

2 cups packaged shredded sweetened coconut

HEAT oven to 350 degrees.

LINE a large cookie sheet with parchment paper and butter the parchment paper.

MIX together butter and sugars in a large mixing bowl until well blended. Add egg and blend into the mixture. Add almond and vanilla extracts. Use a large spoon, stir in flour. Then stir in chopped walnuts. Now stir in the chocolate chips.

FORM dough into golf ball-sized portions. Roll each ball of dough in the shredded coconut. Then slightly flatten dough onto the cookie sheet. Place dough balls 2 inches apart.

BAKE for about 16 minutes or until golden brown. Remove cookies from oven and allow to cool.

Yield: About 24 cookies


 Insanely Delicious Turtle Cookies

 HOLIDAYCOOKIES5-FE-111914-JEL

Second-place winner in the “Drop Cookie” category of the 2014 Holiday Treat Contest. Submitted by Gina Bowman of Raleigh. Bowman also won this year’s grand prize for her Salted Whiskey Caramels in the “Other Candy” category.

[gpp_icon type="rightarrow"] For the dough:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, softened

2/3 cup sugar

1 large egg, separated, plus 1 additional egg white

2 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups pecans, finely chopped

[gpp_icon type="rightarrow"] For the caramel filling:

14 soft caramel candies

3 tablespoons  heavy cream

[gpp_icon type="rightarrow"] For the chocolate drizzle (optional):

2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

1 teaspoon shortening

COMBINE flour, cocoa, and salt. Set aside.

BEAT butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg yolk, milk and vanilla; mix until incorporated. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture until just combined. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, 1 hour.

WHISK egg whites in a bowl until frothy. Place chopped pecans in another bowl. Roll chilled dough into 1-inch balls, dip in egg whites, and then roll in pecans. Place balls about 2 inches apart on a baking sheet. Using a 1/2 teaspoon measuring spoon, make an indentation in the center of each dough ball.

BAKE at 350 degrees until set, about 12 minutes.

MAKE caramel filling: Microwave caramels and cream together in a small bowl, stirring occasionally, until smooth, about 1 to 2 minutes.

ONCE cookies are removed from the oven, gently re-press the indentations. Fill each indentation with about 1/2 teaspoon of the caramel mixture. Cool on the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

MAKE chocolate drizzle: Place chocolate and shortening in a small zip-top plastic bag. Set bag in a bowl of warm water to soften. Gently knead the chocolate with your fingers until melted and smooth, placing back in the warm water for a minute or two as needed.

SNIP a very small hole in the corner of the plastic bag. Drizzle chocolate over the cooled Turtle Cookies.

Yields: about 15 cookies


Raspberry Hazelnut Shortbread

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First-place winner in the “Other Cookie” category in the 2014 Holiday Treat Contest. Submitted by Nick Verna of Morrsville. Verna notes that the cookies can be frozen for up to 1 month if you want to make them ahead of time.

1/2 cup salted butter (at room temperature)

1/3 cup white sugar

1 large egg

2 cups all-purpose flour

About 3/4 cup hazelnuts

1/2 cup seedless good quality raspberry jam

6 ounces chopped semisweet chocolate

BEAT butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. You will see it change color and texture until it gets lighter in color and fluffy. Beat in the egg until completely incorporated. Add flour until fully incorporated. Divide dough into two round balls. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for exactly 1 hour. (If you refrigerate any longer the dough will get too hard to roll out.)

WHILE dough is in refrigerator, heat oven to 325 degrees. Spread hazelnuts onto a cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the skins begin to brown. Remove from oven and increase oven temperature to 350 degrees. Place toasted hazelnuts on a clean kitchen towel and rub them with the towel. Most of the skins should rub off. Chop fine. You need 1/2 cup finely chopped hazelnuts.

ROLL out each ball of dough between two sheets of wax paper into a 15-by-4-inch rectangle. Peel top sheet of wax paper off the dough. Invert the dough (flip it over) onto a cookie sheet that has been covered with parchment paper. Peel off remaining wax paper. Fold the sides inward 1/2 inch, keeping the sides even, to form a lip around the edge of the dough. Repeat for the second ball of dough. Carefully spread half the jam on each rectangle of dough. Sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts.

BAKE cookies for 20-25 minutes until edges are lightly browned. Leave cookies on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes. While still warm, cut each rectangle into 12 slices. Place cut cookies on a wire cooling rack until completely cooled.

MELT chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave, stirring frequently until just melted. Dip one long end of each cookie into the melted chocolate, being careful not to burn your fingers in the hot chocolate. Let excess chocolate pour off and place each cookie on a sheet of wax paper until completely cooled. Place cookies in an air- tight container with wax paper between the layers of cookies.

Yield: about 24 cookies


 Brown Sugar Pecan Crescents

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Second-place winner in the “Other Cookie” category in the 2014 Holiday Treat Contest. Adapted from Ginny Byrne of Raleigh. Byrne notes cookies can be served with ripe pears and blue or gorgonzola cheese. Cookies also can be frozen for up to a month, if placed between sheets of waxed paper in covered plastic containers or resealable plastic freezer bags.

1 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup pecans, toasted lightly

1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1/4 cup dark brown sugar (packed)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

A pinch of salt

Powdered sugar

HEAT oven to 325 degrees. Combine flour, pecans, butter, brown sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon and pinch of salt in a food processor. Process until mixture resembles coarse meal. Continue until dough begins to come together in clumps. Gather dough together and place in a bowl.

TAKE a generous teaspoon of dough and roll between palms of your hands to form 2-1/2-inch long rope, tapering at the ends. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and curl up ends to form crescent shape. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Cookies should be spaced about 2 inches apart.

BAKE cookies about 20 minutes or firm enough to touch. Cool on cookie sheet for about 5 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and cool completely. Sift powdered sugar over cookies.

Yield: about 36 cookies.


Salted Whiskey Caramels

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The grand prize-winning recipe in the 2014 Holiday Treat Contest. First-place winner in the “Other Candy” category by Gina Bowman of Raleigh. Bowman also won for her Insanely Delicious Turtle Cookies in the “Drop Cookie” category.

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup heavy whipping cream

2 ounces (1/4 cup) whiskey, such as Jack Daniel’s or other brand

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon and 1/4 teaspoon kosher (coarse) salt, divided

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/4 cup light corn syrup

1/4 cup water

LINE a 9-inch square pan with parchment or wax paper, allowing paper to drape over two sides to create a sling that will help remove caramels later. Spray paper lightly with cooking spray.

BRING butter, heavy whipping cream, whiskey, vanilla and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil in a 1-quart saucepan, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; set aside.

MIX sugar, corn syrup and water in a 3-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Do not stir. Boil until sugar turns a warm golden brown.

WHEN sugar mixture reaches 310 degrees on a candy thermometer, turn off heat and slowly add cream mixture. Be careful; it will bubble up violently. Cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly until the mixture reaches 248 degrees. Pour caramel into pan; cool 10 minutes. Sprinkle with up to 1 tablespoon salt; cool completely.

CUT into squares; wrap individually in parchment paper.

Yield: 64 servings.


 Frosted Cranberries

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Second-place winner in the “Other Candy” category in the 2014 Holiday Treat Contest. Submitted by Nancy Margolis of Raleigh.

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon pasteurized egg white or liquid egg white substitute

1 (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries, rinsed, but not completely re-dried.

1 cup white sugar

STIR together water and egg white in a medium bowl until blended but not whipped. Add cranberries and stir gently until coated.

SPREAD sugar out in a 9-by-13-inch cake pan. Add cranberries to the sugar a handful at a time, being careful to let any excess liquid drip off before you drop them onto the sugar. Roll cranberries by shaking fast until they are completely coated with sugar.

PLACE berries on a sheet of waxed paper to dry at room temperature for two hours.

Yield: about 36 servings.


Pecan Millionaires

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Second-place winner in the “Chocolate Candy” category in the 2014 Holiday Treat Contest. Submitted by two readers, Patricia Sasser of Youngsville, and Carolyn Fordham of Raleigh. Fordham’s version calls for Hershey’s candy bars for the chocolate.

1 stick margarine or butter

14 ounces caramel candy squares

2 cups chopped pecans

8 ounces chocolate candy coating, such as CandiQuik

MELT margarine or butter and caramels together in a heavy saucepan over low heat. Stir until well blended.

ADD pecans and stir to thoroughly distribute nuts. Drop teaspoonfuls onto waxed paper and leave to harden.

ONCE cool, use microwave to melt chocolate candy coating, following package instructions. Dip each piece of caramel-pecan candy and fully coat with chocolate. Place on wax paper and allow to harden.

Yield: about 30 pieces.

[gpp_icon type="summary"] 2014 Holiday Cookies printable recipe


 2013 Winners

Peppermint Crescents

Peppermint crescents.

This recipe won an honorable mention in the cookie category in the 2013 Holiday Treats contest. From Colleen Ely of Youngsville.

1 cup butter, softened

2 2/3 cups powdered sugar, divided

1 1/4 teaspoons peppermint extract, divided

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 cups all purpose flour

2 1/2 tablespoons half and half

Coarsely crushed hard peppermint candies

BEAT butter in large bowl with a mixer at medium speed until creamy. Add 2/3 cup powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon peppermint extract and salt. Beat well. Gradually add flour, beating at low speed just until blended after each addition. Divide dough roughly into thirds; cover and chill for 30 minutes.

PREHEAT oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Set aside.

WORK with one portion of dough at a time: roll into about a dozen 1-inch balls, then roll each gently into a 2-inch log and curve ends to form a crescent. Place 1 inch apart on cookie sheet. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on cookie sheets for a minute before placing on wire racks. Carefully roll warm cookies in 1 cup powdered sugar. Let cool completely.

COMBINE remaining 1 cup powdered sugar, half and half and 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract, stirring until smooth. Drizzle icing over cookies and immediately sprinkle with crushed peppermints, pressing on gently. Let icing set before serving. Store in airtight container.

Yield: about 2 dozen cookies.


 

Salted Almond Buttercrunch Toffee

Almond buttercrunch toffee.

This recipe received an honorable mention in the chocolate candy and brittle category in the 2013 Holiday Treats contest. Variations of the recipe were submitted by three different readers: Beverly Phillips of Henderson, Shannon Zarb of Rolesville, and Gabrielle Rigsbee of Pittsboro.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut up, plus more for buttering dish

1 1/2 cups roasted salted almonds, divided

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

2 tablespoons water

12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided in half

LINE a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with aluminum foil or parchment, greased with butter or nonstick spray. Set aside.

CHOP 1 cup almonds coarsely. Set aside. Finely chop remaining 1/2 cup almonds. Set aside.

HEAT butter, sugar, corn syrup and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat until butter melts. Increase heat to medium-high and insert candy thermometer. Keep constant watch on mixture and cook about 12 minutes until golden brown and candy thermometer reaches 300 degrees. Do not stir. Immediately remove from heat, remove thermometer and stir in 1 cup of coarsely chopped almonds.

POUR toffee into prepared pan and quickly spread to the edges using a spatula. Let stand on a wire rack for 30 minutes.

MELT half of chocolate chips in a microwave on high for 45 seconds; stir until smooth. (Note: The time in the microwave may be longer or shorter depending on strength of microwave. You may use double boiler if that is easier for you.)

SPREAD melted chocolate evenly over top of cooled toffee and refrigerate for 20 minutes or longer until firm. Once bar is firm, remove from refrigerator and flip over onto a second sheet of parchment or wax paper. Remove foil or parchment paper stuck the toffee.

MELT remaining chocolate chips in the microwave on high for 45 seconds; stir until smooth. Spread over toffee bar and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of crushed almonds. Use the wax/parchment paper to slide toffee bar back into baking pan. Refrigerate for another 20 minutes.

ONCE chocolate is firm, break bar into 2 1/2-inch pieces. Store airtight at room temperature for up to 1 month.

Yield: about 24 pieces.


Salted Caramel Thumbprints

Salted caramel thumbprints.

This recipe won an honorable mention in the cookie category in the 2013 Holiday Treats contest. From Jennifer Smith of Apex, who spotted this winning recipe in the Better Homes and Gardens Christmas Cookie magazine from 2012. Smith used Werther’s chewy caramels and semisweet Lindt chocolate bar. She suggested purchasing Fleur de Sel at Whole Foods or online.

2 cups all purpose flour

2/3 cup sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter, cut up into slices

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

16 unwrapped caramels, such as Werther’s chewy caramels

1/3 cup whipping cream

3 ounces coarsely chopped chocolate, semi-sweet or bittersweet

Fleur de Sel salt

PREHEAT oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

COMBINE flour and sugar in a large bowl. Use a pastry blender and cut in butter and vanilla until the mixture resembles fine crumbs and starts to cling together. Form the mixture into a large ball and knead until smooth. (You also could do this step in a standing mixer, which will mix and pull the dough into a ball.)

SHAPE dough into 1-inch balls. Place them about 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets. Using your thumb or the back of a small spoon, make an indentation into each ball. Bake for about 12 to 14 minutes or until edges are light brown. Re-press cookie centers with a spoon if they puffed up during baking. Cool cookies for 5 minutes on the sheets and remove to a wire rack and cool completely.

COMBINE caramels and whipping cream in a small saucepan while the cookies are cooling. Cook and stir constantly over very low heat until caramels are melted and sauce is smooth. Move cooled cookies onto wax paper on the kitchen counter. Carefully spoon about a teaspoon of the sauce into the indentations of the cookies.

MELT chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl for about 45 seconds to a minute. Stir until smooth. Spoon melted chocolate into a pastry bag or a small plastic bag. If using a plastic bag, cut off a corner. Drizzle melted chocolate back and forth over each cookie. Sprinkle each cookie with a few grains of the Fleur de Sel.

Yield: about 32 cookies.


Sour Cream Pecans

Sour cream pecans.

This recipe received an honorable mention in the other candy and brittle category in the 2013 Holiday Treats contest. From John Mandeville of Raleigh.

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups pecans

LINE two cookie sheets with wax paper. Set aside.

MIX sour cream, granulated sugar and brown sugar in a large pan, and continuously stir while cooking over medium-high heat, until mixture reaches 235 degrees on a candy thermometer. This is the “soft ball stage, ” or when a drop of the candy dropped into cold water will form a soft ball.

TURN off heat and immediately add vanilla and stir. Add pecans, and stir quickly, coating all nuts. Immediately pour half the mixture onto each cookie sheet and use a fork to separate into desired size (clumps or individual nuts), teasing the nuts apart. Do not make more than one batch at a time or the nuts will be too difficult to separate.

Yield: 2 cups.


Peanut butter chocolate swirl soft baked cookies.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Swirl Soft-Baked Cookies

This recipe was one of two that won the cookie category in the 2013 Holiday Treats contest. From Ken Branch of Raleigh.

Chocolate Cookie Dough:

1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar (light or dark)

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons milk

1 cup chocolate chips

Peanut Butter Cookie Dough:

1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature

1/2 cup brown sugar (light or dark)

1/4 cup sugar

1 large egg

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup chocolate chips

MAKE chocolate dough: Cream butter and sugars together with a mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl as needed. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined, scraping down sides again. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Slowly add to wet ingredients. The dough will be very thick. Using a spoon or spatula, mix in milk and then fold in chocolate chips.

MAKE peanut butter dough: Cream butter and sugars together with a mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Scrape down sides of bowl as necessary. Mix in peanut butter, egg and vanilla. Scrape down sides again as necessary. Slowly mix in baking soda and flour. Do not over-mix. Fold in chocolate chips.

CHILL both cookie doughs for at least 2 hours.

PREHEAT oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Measure 2 tablespoons of the peanut butter cookie dough, and roll it into a ball. Measure 2 tablespoons of chocolate cookie dough, and roll it into a ball. Press two balls together and roll them into 1 large ball. (Do not blend the two balls completely or the cookies will not swirl properly.) Repeat for each cookie. The chocolate cookie dough will be messy on your hands, so wash or wipe them after you roll each cookie. (If the chocolate cookie dough is not thoroughly chilled, it will be even messier.)

BAKE cookies for 11 to 12 minutes. Do not bake more than 13 minutes. The cookies will look soft, puffy, and almost under-baked. Allow cookies to cool on the cookie sheet. They will continue to set up. After a few minutes, move them to a rack. As they cool, cookies will become firmer. These cookies will remain soft and tasty for just over a week in an airtight container.

Yield: 24 cookies.


Chocolate covered peppermint bites.

Chocolate-Covered Peppermint Stick Bites

This recipe was the winner in the chocolate candy and brittle category in the 2013 Holiday Treat contest. From Amy Engebretson of Fuquay-Varina.

4 red-and-white peppermint sticks or candy canes, about 6 inches long

1 cup graham cracker crumbs

1/4 cup butter, melted

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup sour cream

2 eggs

24 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

2 drops peppermint oil or extract

3 tablespoons vegetable shortening

HEAT oven to 300 degrees. Line an 8-inch-square pan with heavy-duty foil so foil extends over sides of pan. Spray foil with cooking spray. Set aside.

PLACE peppermint sticks in a sealed zip-top plastic bag and crush them finely by whacking and then rolling them with a rolling pin. They should resemble crushed ice. Set aside 2 tablespoons of the crushed peppermint. Combine peppermint, graham cracker crumbs and butter in a small bowl. Spread mixture in bottom of foil-lined pan.

BEAT cream cheese in a large bowl until smooth. Add sugar, vanilla, sour cream and eggs and beat until smooth. Pour filling over crust.

BAKE 40-45 minutes or until edges are set. Center will be soft but will set when cool. Refrigerate for 1 1/2 hours or until chilled, then freeze cheesecake about 2 hours or until firm.

REMOVE cheesecake from pan by lifting foil. Cut into about 1-inch pieces, remove from foil and place on sheet of wax paper.

MELT chocolate and shortening in a 1-quart saucepan. When melted, stir in the peppermint oil or extract. Cool 2 to 3 minutes or until slightly cooled. Place in 2-cup measuring cup.

SPEAR each cheesecake bite with fork; dip in melted chocolate to cover bottom and sides, letting excess drip off. Place on waxed paper. While bites are still moist, sprinkle with reserved peppermint pieces. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Yield: about 48 servings.


Maple Pecan Bacon Brittle

Maple pecan bacon brittle.

This recipe won the other candy and brittle category in our 2013 Holiday Treats contest . From James Mullins of Hampton Roads, Va.

8 slices bacon

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup light corn syrup

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

2 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine, softened

1 teaspoon baking soda

LINE a medium or large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

COOK bacon until crisp and drain on paper towels. Chop finely and reserve.

COMBINE sugar, corn syrup, maple syrup, water and salt in a deep-sided 3-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat until sugar is dissolved, about 10-12 minutes. Fold in pecans and turn heat up to medium-high. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches 300°F on a candy thermometer, about 10-13 minutes.

REMOVE pot from the heat and stir in reserved bacon, butter or margarine and baking soda until well mixed.

POUR mixture onto prepared baking sheet and spread as thinly as possible with a heat-proof spatula. Let cool until hardened, about 30 minutes. Break into pieces to serve.

Yield: 12-18 servings.


 Raspberry, Coconut and Walnut Shortbread Squares

RaspberryThis recipe was one of two winners in the cookie category in the 2013 Holiday Treats contest. From Linda Joy Willis of Raleigh.

1  1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing pan

3 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup white sugar

2 teaspoons almond extract

3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

1 1/2 cups seedless red raspberry preserves

4 cups (10 ounces) shredded coconut

20 red candied cherries

20 green candied cherries

PREHEAT oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with butter. Set aside.

STIR together flour and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.

MIX together butter, sugars and almond extract in a large mixing bowl with a mixer on medium low speed. With a large spoon, blend in flour mixture. Then stir in walnuts.

PRESS dough evenly into bottom of baking dish. Bake for 36 to 38 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove shortbread from oven and cool for about 15 minutes.

SPREAD raspberry preserves evenly over shortbread. Sprinkle coconut on top and press down lightly. Decorate with four rows of evenly-spaced red cherries, five per row. Cut green cherries into four parts and place around the bottom of the red cherries to create a leaf effect.

Yield: about 20 servings.

[gpp_icon type="summary"] 2013 Holiday treat printable recipe


2012 Winners

Andes Mint Cookies

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Winner of the drop cookie category in 2012. From Marielle and Frank Curcio of Wake Forest.

3/4 cup butter or margarine

1-1/2 cups brown sugar, packed

2 tablespoons water

12-ounce package semisweet chocolate chips

2 eggs

2-1/2 cups flour

1-1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 (4.6-ounce) boxes Andes mints

HEAT butter, brown sugar and water in saucepan until butter is melted. Remove from heat and add chocolate chips, stirring until melted. Pour into a large bowl and cool 10 minutes.

MIX eggs into chocolate mixture, then add flour, soda and salt and stir just until blended.

CHILL dough for an hour. (Don’t worry that the dough seems a little bit oily; it turns out fine once baked.)

HEAT oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking pads. Roll dough into 1-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on cookie sheet.

BAKE cookies for about 11 minutes or when the small cracks that form on the cookies look a little wet inside. Remove from oven and immediately place an Andes mint on each cookie. After they melt, swirl each one with an offset spatula (think of it like spreading frosting on a cake but with an Andes mint instead). Remove cookies from cookie sheet and let them cool until chocolate is solid.

Yield: about 60-70 cookies.


Buckeyes

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Honorable mention winner in the chocolate category in 2012. From Anne Brill of Cary.

2 sticks margarine at room temperature

16-ounce jar creamy peanut butter

1 pound powdered sugar

2 cups finely ground graham crackers

24 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

4 tablespoons shortening

MIX peanut butter and margarine together in a medium-sized bowl with an electric mixer until the mixture is creamy. Gradually beat in powdered sugar. Then stir in the graham cracker crumbs, mixing thoroughly. Roll into walnut-sized balls and chill in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes while you make the dipping chocolate.

MELT half of the chocolate chips with 2 tablespoons shortening in either a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, or in the microwave, on high in 20-second intervals, stirring between intervals. (Dipping takes awhile, and chocolate can harden so it is best to make the dipping chocolate in two batches.)

SPEAR each peanut butter ball with a toothpick or small skewer, dip into chocolate, covering three-quarters of each ball. Place on waxed paper and use your finger to press lightly on the ball, covering the hole left by the toothpick to make it disappear. Chill in refrigerator to set the chocolate coating. Keep in refrigerator, garage or other cool place until ready to serve.

Yield: about 70 balls.


 New Zealand Holly Cookies

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2012 grand prize winner. From Erin Czmiel of Cary.

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

1 slightly beaten egg

1/4 cup milk, plus 2 to 3 tablespoons, divided

2 cups sifted powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Green and red food coloring

2/3 cup raspberry jam

HEAT oven to 375 degrees.

COMBINE flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Use two butter knives or a pastry cutter to cut butter into the flour mixture until the size of small peas. Make a well in the center. Combine egg and 1/4 cup milk; add all at once to the flour-butter mixture. Stir until moistened.

ROLL dough to 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Use 2-inch round or star cookie cutter to cut dough. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the bottom is brown. Cool on a wire rack.

PLACE about 1/2 teaspoon raspberry jam on the bottom of cookie and top with another cookie. Repeat with remaining cookies.

STIR powdered sugar, vanilla and 2 to 3 tablespoons milk in a small bowl to create a glaze. Spread on top of each sandwich cookie. Use a paintbrush to paint a few holly leaves and a stem with the green food coloring and holly berries with the red food coloring.

Yield: about 45 sandwich cookies.


 World Peace Cookies

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Winner of the chocolate category in 2012. From Bruce Nawrocki of Raleigh. This recipe originates from award-winning cookbook author Dorie Greenspan���s book, “Baking: From My Home to Yours” (Houghton Mifflin, 2006).

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 stick plus 3 tablespoons (11 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips, or a generous 3/4 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips

SIFT������flour, cocoa and baking soda together. Set aside.

BEAT batter on medium speed until soft and creamy in a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl. Add both sugars, salt and vanilla extract and beat for 2 minutes more. Turn off the mixer.

POUR in dry ingredients, drape a kitchen towel over the stand mixer to protect yourself and your kitchen from flying flour, and pulse mixer at low speed about 5 times, a second or two each time. Take a peek: If there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple more times; if not, remove the towel. Continuing at low speed, mix for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough; for the best texture, work the dough as little as possible once the flour is added, and don’t be concerned if the dough looks a little crumbly. Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix only to incorporate.

TURN dough out onto a work surface, gather it together and divide it in half. Working with one half at a time, shape the dough into logs that are 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. (The dough can be refrigerated up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. If you freeze the dough, you will not have to defrost it before baking; just slice the logs into cookies and bake the cookies 1 minute longer.)

CENTER a rack in the oven and heat to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

SLICE logs into rounds that are 1/2 inch thick, using a sharp, thin knife. (The rounds are likely to crack as you’re cutting them. Don’t be concerned, just squeeze the bits back onto each cookie.) Arrange rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between them.

BAKE cookies one sheet at a time for 12 minutes; they won’t look done, nor will they be firm, but that’s the way they should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack, and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can serve them or let them reach room temperature.

Yield: 36 cookies.


Cream Wafers

2012 Holiday cookies

This recipe, printed in the “Betty Crocker Cookbook,” (General Mills Corp, 1972) won the slice and bake category in 2012. From Virginia Walker of Apex and Molly Beeke of Raleigh.

1-1/4 cup soft butter, divided

1/3 cup whipping cream

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Green or red food coloring

Granulated sugar

MIX 1 cup butter, cream and flour together in a standing mixer or in a medium bowl with electric mixer. Pull dough together into one ball, wrap with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator.

HEAT oven to 375 degrees. Divide dough into thirds. Roll out a third of the dough at a time to 1/8-inch thickness on a flour-covered surface. Keep remaining dough in refrigerator until ready to roll. Cut into 1-1/2-inch circles.

TRANSFER rounds to a small bowl filled with granulated sugar. Toss rounds in sugar until both sides are coated. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Prick each round with fork about 4 times. Bake 7 to 9 minutes or just until set but not brown. Cool.

CREAM 1/4 cup butter, powdered sugar and vanilla in standing mixer or in bowl with electric mixer until smooth and fluffy. If needed, add a few drops of water for proper spreading consistency. Tint with a few drops of desired food color.

SPREAD a dollop of the frosting on the bottom of one cookie and top with another, creating a sandwich cookie. Continue until you run out of cookies or frosting.

Yield: About 60 sandwich cookies.


 Sweet Carolina Biscotti

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Honorable mention winner in 2012. From Victoria Larraz of Raleigh.

1 cup whole pecans

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

1-1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cooking or baking spray

1 cup milk chocolate chips, preferably Ghiardelli

HEAT oven to 400 degrees.

BLANCH pecans in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain, rinse and towel dry. Spread pecans on an ungreased baking sheet and toast for 7 minutes. Cool. Chop pecans and set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

COMBINE flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and chopped pecans in large bowl. In another bowl, stir togther eggs, sugar and vegetable oil. Gradually add egg mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until the dry ingredients are moistened.

DIVIDE dough in half. With lightly-floured hands and on a lightly-floured surface, shape each portion into a 12-inch by 2-inch log. Spray cookie sheet with baking or cooking spray. Place logs three inches apart on greased cookie sheet. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool 10 minutes.

CUT each log diagonally into 3/4-inch slides with a serrated knife. Return slices cut side down to the baking sheet. Bake for 7 minutes. Turn slices and bake 7 more minutes. Set aside to cool completely.

MELT chocolate chips in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir occasionally. Dip bottoms of the biscotti in the melted chocolate or spread chocolate on one side of the biscotti. Set upside down on wax paper to harden the chocolate.

Yield: 12-15 cookies.

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