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Readers' best recipes for Christmas cookies

Holiday Walnut Berry Bites

Nonstick cooking spray

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

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

½ cup confectioners' sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

1 ⅓ cups Karo light corn syrup

4 eggs

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 cups fresh or thawed frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped

1 cup walnuts, chopped

1 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat a 12 1/2- by 17 1/2- by 1-inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. In a large bowl, beat flour, butter, confectioners' sugar and salt at medium speed until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press firmly and evenly into pan. Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown.

In a large bowl, beat Karo syrup, eggs, sugar and butter until well blended. Stir in the cranberries and walnuts. Spread mixture evenly over hot crust. Sprinkle white chocolate chips over the top. Return to oven and bake 25 to 30 minutes or until set. Cool completely on a wire rack before serving.

Yield: 4 dozen.

Freezeworthy: No.

Submitted by Gilda Marchant, St. Petersburg

Orange Gumdrop Bars

3 eggs

1 tablespoon water

2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup orange gumdrops or orange-slice candy, cut up (see note)

3 ½ ounces flaked coconut

1 cup broken nuts, toasted

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

Beat eggs with water until foamy. Gradually add sugar and salt; beat until fluffy. Thoroughly mix gumdrops, coconut, nuts and flour; stir into egg mixture. Spread in a greased 9- by 13-inch pan. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 25 minutes. Let cool to firm, then cut into squares.

Times testing note: If you use orange slices, you'll only need about 6 or 7. To cut easily, spritz your knife with a nonstick spray.

Yield: 26 to 30 bars, depending on how you cut them.

Freezeworthy: No.

Submitted by Gayle Hackbarth, Summerfield

Double Peanut Cookie Bars

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

1 (12-ounce) package peanut butter chips

1 (6-ounce) package semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup chopped Spanish peanuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In hot oven, melt butter in a 9- by 13-inch pan. Remove from oven.

Stir in graham cracker crumbs and spread evenly on the bottom of the pan. Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over crumbs. Sprinkle with a layer of peanut butter chips, chocolate chips and then the peanuts; press gently onto base.

Bake 25 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Chill at least 1 hour before cutting into bars.

Yield: About 36 bars.

Freezeworthy: Yes, but cool completely first.

Submitted by Jeanne Chouinard, Palm Harbor

Cardamom-Almond Sticks

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup confectioners' sugar

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ cup almond paste, crumbled

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

⅓ cup water

3 tablespoons canola oil

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup almonds, finely chopped

In a food processor, blend flour, confectioners' sugar, cardamom, baking soda and salt. Add almond paste and butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal.

In a glass measuring cup, combine water, oil and lemon juice. With the processor running, pour liquid through feed tube and process until dough just forms a ball. Do not overmix. Divide the dough into quarters; wrap each section in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold and firm, at least 30 minutes or overnight.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat 2 baking sheets with nonstick spray or line with parchment paper.

On a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin, roll 1 piece of dough into a 3- by 12-inch rectangle. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon chopped almonds and press them in with the rolling pin. Cut dough crosswise into ½-inch-wide strips and place ½ inch apart on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and almonds.

Bake cookies, one sheet at a time, for 10 to 12 minutes or until very lightly browned. Let cool on baking sheets until crisp.

YIELD: About 3 dozen cookies.

FREEZEWORTHY: Yes, but cool completely first.

Submitted by Jennifer Caldwell, South Pasadena

Tumbleweeds

1 (12-ounce) can salted peanuts

1 (7-ounce) can potato sticks

3 cups butterscotch chips

3 tablespoons peanut butter

Combine peanuts and potato sticks in a bowl. Microwave butterscotch chips and peanut butter at 70 percent power for 1 to 2 minutes until melted. Stir at 30-second intervals. Add to peanut-potato sticks mixture. Stir well to evenly coat. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto wax paper. Refrigerate until set, at least 15 minutes. Store in an airtight container.

Yield: 4 ½ dozen.

Freezeworthy: No.

Submitted by Vivian B. Rhiner, Brandon

Almond Fudge Cups

For the pastry:

¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

⅓ cup sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon almond- or fruit-flavored liqueur such as Cointreau, or water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling:

1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

¾ cup blanched almonds

2 eggs

½ cup sugar

Dash salt

To prepare pastry: Lightly grease 3 dozen miniature (1 ¾-inch) muffin pan cups or small tart shells. Cream butter and sugar in large bowl until blended. Add flour, liqueur and vanilla extract; stir to make moist crumbs. Divide crumbs evenly among muffin cups; press to cover bottoms and sides of cups completely. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To prepare filling: Place chocolate chips and almonds in food processor or blender. Process until finely ground. Beat eggs in medium bowl until thick; stir in sugar and salt. Blend in chocolate mixture. Spoon filling into unbaked pastry shells. Bake 20 minutes or until filling is set. Cool in pans on wire racks. Store in airtight containers.

Yield: 3 dozen cookies.

Freezeworthy: Yes, but cool completely first.

Submitted by Becky Lamson, Riverview

Chocolate Dipped Pecan Crescents

1 cup pecan halves

2 cups confectioners' sugar, divided

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

Semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled

Finely chop pecans in processor with ¼ cup confectioners' sugar. Beat butter until creamy. Add ½ cup confectioners' sugar and beat until fluffy. Beat in nut mixture and vanilla, then flour and salt. Chill 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. With floured hands, roll about 1 ½ teaspoons dough into 3-inch ropes; shape into crescents. Place on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until lightly browned on bottoms and edges. Transfer to wire racks and sift remaining confectioners' sugar onto a plate. Sprinkle confectioners' sugar over one end of warm cookies and then carefully, using a pastry brush, paint the other end with the melted chocolate. Place on wax paper to set.

Yield: About 3 dozen.

Freezeworthy: Yes, but cool completely first.

Submitted by Cleo Ann Druzbick, Spring Hill

Vegan Gluten-Free Carob Chip and Walnut Cookies

2 ½ cups almond flour

½ teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 cup vegan carob chips (can substitute chocolate chips)

½ cup walnuts (can be toasted)

½ cup melted coconut oil

½ cup yacon syrup or molasses

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons brown rice flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, combine almond four, sea salt, baking soda, carob chips and walnuts. In a separate bowl, combine coconut oil, syrup (or molasses) and vanilla. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, and combine. Toss in brown rice flour to stiffen dough. Form dough into 1-inch balls and place on parchment-lined cookie sheet, pressing slightly.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven; let sit for 5 minutes on baking sheet before transferring to cooling rack.

Yield: 3 dozen cookies.

Freezeworthy: Yes, but cool completely first.

Submited by Mary Skinner, FineDine Organic Cuisine, Dunedin

Canadian Chocolate Sparkle Cookies

½ pound semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

2 eggs

⅓ cup granulated sugar, plus more for rolling

¾ cup ground almonds

1 teaspoon cocoa powder

Confectioners' sugar, optional

Melt chocolate in top of double boiler set over, but not touching, simmering water. Remove from heat. Cut butter, a few pieces at a time, and mix into chocolate until melted.

Beat eggs with electric mixer, gradually adding sugar until ribbons form. Fold the egg mixture into the chocolate-butter mixture and gently add ground almonds and cocoa powder. (Mixture will be very runny.) Cover and refrigerate overnight or for 24 hours.

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Use cookie scoop to form the dough into 1-inch balls. Roll the balls in granulated sugar, place on baking sheet about 2 inches apart and immediately place in oven. Bake until the centers are no longer wet, 9 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven, and when cookies are slightly cool, dust with confectioners' sugar if you'd like.

Times testing notes: We wondered what made these cookies Canadian, and an Internet search turned up the answer. They are a signature cookie of pastry chef Thomas Haas of Vancouver, British Columbia. Besides being showstoppers, they are also gluten free.

Yield: 3 dozen.

Freezeworthy: Yes, with reservations. These cookies melt in your mouth when fresh, but after freezing they became more chewy than we liked.

Submitted by Joyce St. Clair, St. Petersburg

Brown Sugar Cookies

3 ½ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons cream of tartar

¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 ½ teaspoons anise seeds

1 teaspoon lemon or orange extract

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sift together flour, baking soda and cream of tartar in a medium-size bowl and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter with an electric mixer and gradually add brown sugar; mix well. Add the eggs, anise seeds and extracts. Beat well. Blend in dry ingredients. Chill dough for at least 1 hour for better handling. Shape into rounded teaspoon-sized balls.

Place on ungreased or parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Yield: 4 to 5 dozen.

Freezworthy: Yes, but cool completely first.

Submitted by John Pacheco, St. Petersburg

Lemon-Coconut Squares

For the crust:

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut in cubes

½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar

For the topping:

2 eggs

1 cup firmly packed light brown sn sugar

1 ½ cups flaked or shredded coconut

2 tablespoons flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon lemon extract and zest of one lemon

For the icing:

1 cup confectioners' sugar

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter

Mix the crust ingredients well and pat into a buttered 9- by 13-inch pan. Bake in very low oven, 275 degrees, for 10 minutes. Remove pan and increase oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Combine the topping ingredients and spread on top of baked mixture. Return to oven and bake 20 minutes. Combine icing ingredients and, while warm, drizzle with icing.

Yield: 24 (2-inch) squares.

Freezeworthy: No.

Submitted by Gail Sloan, Tampa

Candied Fruit Cookies

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon cloves

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

¼ teaspoon allspice

½ teaspoon salt

⅔ cup (1 stick plus 3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature

½ cup sugar

½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1 egg

¾ cup candied fruit

Pecans halves for decoration

Mix together the first seven ingredients. Add the butter, sugars and egg, then add candied fruit. Drop by teaspoonfuls on parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes at 350 degrees. If you'd like, press a pecan half, or even a smaller piece, into each cookie before baking.

Yield: About 3 dozen cookies.

Freezeworthy: Yes, but cool completely first.

Submitted by Joyce Geiger, Sun City Center

Lace Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup Quick Quaker Oats

1 cup sugar

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg, well beaten

¼ teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix all ingredients together. Line cookie sheet with parchment. Drop dough by the teaspoonful onto paper, about 2 inches apart. The dough will spread quite a bit as it bakes.

Bake for about 7 minutes or until outer edges of cookies are brown. Cool completely and peel from wax paper.

Yield: 2 to 3 dozen, depending on size.

Freezeworthy: Yes, but you might want to separate each completely cooled cookie with wax paper. They are very fine and could break if you have to peel them apart.

Submitted by Cleo Ann Druzbick, Spring Hill

Chewy Pumpkin Gingersnaps

1 cup raisins

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar

½ cup pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon finely shredded orange peel

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 ⅔ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup pecans, processed in food processor to coarse crumbs

1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 tablespoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon ground allspice

¼ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place raisins and butter in food processor; process until raisins are pureed and completely incorporated. Transfer mixture to extra-large bowl. With electric mixer, beat in brown sugar, pumpkin puree, orange peel and vanilla until creamy.

In medium bowl, combine flour, pecan crumbs, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and salt. Gradually beat flour mixture into raisin mixture; mix until well combined.

With a 2-tablespoon cookie scoop, drop dough 4 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten tops lightly.

Bake 12 to 13 minutes or until edges are just set. Let cool in pan for 2 minutes; transfer cookies to cooling rack and cool completely.

Yield: About 5 dozen.

Freezeworthy: Yes, but cool completely first.

Submitted by Alexa Lampasona, Lutz

Orange Cornmeal Crisps

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup fine cornmeal, divided

2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 large egg

2 teaspoons orange zest

½ teaspoon orange extract

For the glaze:

2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

Zest and juice of 2 medium oranges

Pinch of fine sea salt

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, ¾ cup of the cornmeal, baking powder and salt; set the mixture aside.

Using an electric mixer set on medium speed, beat the butter, sugar and egg until creamy, scraping the bowl often, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low; add the flour mixture, zest and orange extract, and beat until the mixture pulls away from the sides and forms a dough, about 1 minute.

Divide the dough in half and form each half into a 12-inch-long, 1 ½-inch-wide log. Cover the dough in plastic wrap and chill until firm, about 1 hour in the fridge or 20 minutes in the freezer.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two rimmed cookie sheets with parchment paper. Spread the remaining cornmeal on a small flat tray; roll each log in the cornmeal to coat. Cut the logs into ½-inch-thick slices and place the slices 1 inch apart on the sheets. Bake until the cookies are deep golden brown around the edges, about 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through. Cool on a wire rack about 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to rack to continue cooling.

To make the glaze: Stir together the confectioners' sugar, zest, ¼ cup of the orange juice and the salt. If needed, add more juice, a teaspoon at a time, until the glaze has a flowing consistency. Spoon a few teaspoons of the glaze onto each cookie.

Yield: About 5 dozen.

Freezeworthy: Yes, but cool completely first. The glaze flattens a bit in the freezing, so if you'd like a fresher look, freeze cookies then glaze after thawing.

Submitted by Joyce Hartman, Palm Harbor, and Patricia Kucera, Seminole

Currant Sandwich Cookies

⅔ cup (1 stick plus 3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature

½ cup confectioners' sugar

2 teaspoons lemon zest

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ cup currant jelly (see note)

1 tablespoon sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Beat margarine or butter, confectioners' sugar and lemon zest in a small bowl on medium speed until light and fluffy. Mix in flour and nutmeg. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. With bottom of glass dipped in confectioners' sugar, flatten slightly into 1 ¼-inch circles. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Remove from cookie sheet and cool completely.

Heat jelly and granulated sugar to boiling. Boil and stir 2 minutes; remove from heat and cool completely. Put cookies together in pairs with about ½ teaspoon filling; gently press together. Optional: Top the center of each cookie with about ¼ teaspoon currant filling

Times testing note: This recipe was submitted using peach preserves as the filling, which we think would make a lovely summertime cookie. We substituted currant jelly to get the hallmark color of Christmas. You could use any preserves you like. If you top the cookies with filling as the recipe notes, plan on serving immediately. You won't be able to stack them to store because the jelly will smear.

Yield: 2 dozen sandwich cookies as long as you shape dough into 1-inch balls.

Freezeworthy: Yes, but cool completely and refrigerator for about an hour first to set before freezing.

Submitted by Gail Sloan, Tampa

Iced Eggnog Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

¾ cup sugar

2 teaspoons each vanilla and rum extract

1 egg

For the icing:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ teaspoon rum extract

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ¼ cups unsifted confectioners' sugar

1 to 2 tablespoons milk

Combine flour, nutmeg and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, beat butter with sugar until creamy. Beat in the vanilla, rum extract and egg until fluffy. Add the flour mixture to butter-sugar mixture until blended. Cover the bowl and chill for 2 hours.

With floured hands, form dough into 1-inch balls. (If crumbly, let dough stand at room temperature about 15 minutes.) Place balls on an ungreased or parchment-paper-lined cookie sheet about 1 inch apart. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes until lightly brown. Cool on wire racks.

To make icing: Beat together first four ingredients. Gradually add milk to obtain a good spreading consistency. Spread a small amount of icing on each cookie. Decorate, if desired.

Optional: Sprinkle with red and green sugar crystals.

Yield: 3 dozen.

Freezeworthy: Yes, but cool completely first and plan to frost after thawing.

Submitted by Linda Crismond, Tarpon Springs, and Virginia Smith, Weeki Wachee

Elli's Christmas Shortbread

1 pound (4 sticks) salted butter, room temperature

1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar (optional)

Grease and flour (or use nonstick spray) a 15- by 10-inch jelly-roll pan and set aside. Using hands to mix, cream softened butter, brown sugar and vanilla until creamy. Slowly add in flour, mixing well until completely blended. (Using a mixer is not recommended because it introduces too much air into the dough.)

Turn dough out onto the prepared pan. With well-floured hands, work mixture evenly over the surface. When spread evenly, if you wish, you can sift up to 2 tablespoons of brown sugar over the top. Prick spread dough generously with floured tines of a fork.

Bake at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes until light in color. Cut into 2-inch squares while still hot and allow to cool in pan. (It will firm up as it cools.) When completely cool, lift out the squares and store in a tightly sealed container.

Times testing notes: We tested this recipe as it was written, mixing the ingredients by hand. However, a bit of research on shortbread didn't turn up any recipes made this way. We suspect that's how Ellen Bess' mother made the cookies and so that's how she does it. It's perfectly fine to use a wooden spoon or other sturdy utensil.

Yield: At least 40.

Freezeworthy: Yes, but cool completely first.

Submitted by Ellen Bess, Brandon

Chocolate Coconut Cranberry Drops

⅓ cup vegetable shortening

½ cup sugar

1 egg

½ teaspoon almond extract

¾ cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips

½ cup shredded coconut

½ cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, cream together shortening and sugar. Beat in egg, almond extract, flour and baking powder. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.

Drop by spoonfuls onto cookie sheet (12 per sheet) and bake 15 to 17 minutes. (Using a small ice cream scoop makes measuring easy and cookies more uniform in size.) Transfer to wire racks and cool.

Yield: About 2 to 3 dozen.

Freezeworthy: Yes, but cool completely first.

Submitted by Nina Schmidt, St. Petersburg

Coconut Caramel Fudge Cookies

1 pouch (1 pound, 1.5 ounces) sugar cookie mix

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1 egg

1 ¼ cups flaked sweetened coconut

Jars of hot fudge topping and caramel topping

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, stir cookie mix, melted butter and egg until soft dough forms. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll balls in coconut. On ungreased cookie sheets, place balls 2 inches apart.

Bake 10 minutes or until edges are light golden brown and coconut starts to toast. Cool 3 minutes, then remove from cookie sheet to wax paper.

In a small microwavable bowl, heat hot fudge topping on high for 20 to 30 seconds or until spreadable. Carefully spread on top of each cookie. Drizzle each warm cookie with caramel topping. (You can put the toppings in squeeze bottles for easy, no-mess drizzling.)

Yield: 2 to 3 dozen.

Freezeworthy: Yes, but cool completely first.

Submitted by Terry Felder, Spring Hill

Rugelach with Nutella and Chocolate Chips

For the pastry:

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold

¾ cup (6 ounces) cream cheese, cold

⅓ cup sour cream, cold

¼ cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the filling:

1 ½ cups Nutella, or more if needed

1 cup mini chocolate chips

Topping:

1 cup sugar

In the bowl of a food processor, add the flour and salt; pulse briefly to combine. Cut the butter and cream cheese into chunks. Add to the food processor with the sour cream, sugar and vanilla; pulse until crumbly. (Pieces of butter and cream cheese about the size of small peas should still be visible in the dough.)

Remove from the processor and shape into a ball. Divide the ball into 4 pieces and form each into a ball. Flatten and wrap each in plastic wrap; refrigerate 2 hours or, preferably, overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 4 large cookie sheets with parchment paper. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, 1 disc at a time, and immediately make the cookies (dough gets soft at room temperature). On a lightly floured surface (or between two sheets of plastic wrap), roll each disc into an 8- or 9-inch circle. Use a large bowl as a guide to cut the circle; reserve scraps and refrigerate. Spread Nutella in an even layer 1 inch from the edge of the circle. Sprinkle chocolate chips over the Nutella. Using a floured knife and a small spatula, cut each topped circle into 8 equal wedges. Roll each wedge up, beginning with the wide end and ending with the narrow end. Dip the formed cookies in sugar. Place point-side down, 8 to each cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining 3 discs of dough and press the scraps into a fifth ball.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. As the rugelach bake, the butter will lightly fry the bottoms, yielding a crunchy crust and a caramelized base. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 40 cookies.

Freezeworthy: No.

Submitted by Lorraine Fina Stevenski, Land O'Lakes

White Chocolate Marble Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar

½ cup sugar

½ cup (1 stick) salted butter, room temperature

1 large egg

½ cup sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

6 ounces white chocolate

Red food coloring

Sprinkles (optional)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt with wire whisk. Set aside.

Combine sugars in a large bowl, using an electric mixer set at medium speed. Add butter and beat until batter is grainy. Add egg, sour cream and vanilla, and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Scrape bowl. Add the flour mixture and blend at low speed until just combined. Do not overmix.

Place white chocolate in double boiler over hot but not boiling water. Stir constantly until melted, then cool for a few minutes. Stir in red food coloring to desired color. Pour over cookie batter. Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, lightly fold melted chocolate into the dough. Do not mix it in completely.

Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls, 2 inches apart, onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake about 12 minutes; do not brown. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool.

If you want to decorate with sprinkles, pull out cookies when they are about halfway done and scatter sprinkles on them. Return to oven for the remainder of the baking time. If you do this, the decorations will adhere to the cookies better.

Times testing notes: This recipe originally called for melted cherry baking chips. We were unable to find them but liked the idea of the red-pink swirled through the dough. The melted white chocolate with red food coloring and the sprinkles are our addition. This is a very soft cookie that will appeal to children.

Yield: 3 to 4 dozen.

Freezeworthy: Yes, but cool completely first.

Submitted by Mica Marsh, Palm Harbor

S'mores Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup graham cracker crumbs (see note)

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

½ cup sugar

½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg

1 ½ cups semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup miniature marshmallows

2 (1.45-ounce each) chocolate bars, such as Hershey's, broken into small pieces

Preheat the oven 350 degrees and place a rack in the center. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick foil.

Mix the flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking soda and salt together in a medium-size bowl; set aside.

In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat the butter and bothsugars on medium speed until creamy; add the vanilla and egg and beat for another 30 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl.

By hand or using the lowest speed of the mixer, stir in the flour mixture. When the flour mixture is incorporated, stir in the chocolate chips.

Drop rounded tablespoonfuls of dough about 2 ½ inches apart onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake one sheet at a time for 8 minutes or until the cookies appear almost set. Remove from the oven and quickly press a couple of marshmallows and a few small pieces of milk chocolate into the cookies. Return the pan to the oven and bake for about 3 minutes or until the marshmallows have puffed up and the cookies appear set. If you are concerned about timing it just right, bake one cookie as a tester and repeat.

Let cool on the baking sheets for 3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Times testing note: You can pulse whole graham crackers in a food processor until fine, but we prefer to buy a box of graham cracker crumbs. Less mess and you're ensured of getting uniform crumbs.

Yield: About 3 ½ dozen.

Freezeworthy: Yes, but cool completely first.

Submitted by Janet K. Keeler from The Daily Cookie by Anna Ginsburg

Chocolate-Covered Wafer Cookies

84 round butter crackers, such as Ritz

12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter

1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs (see note)

¾ cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1 cup sugar

cup whole or reduced-fat milk

1 cup butterscotch chips

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

¾ cup creamy peanut butter

Line a 9- by 13-inch pan with nonstick foil. Spread a layer of crackers across the bottom and set aside.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Add the graham cracker crumbs, both sugars and milk. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. When the mixture begins to boil, set a timer and boil gently for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour half of this mixture over the crackers, then layer more crackers over the boiled mixture. Pour the remaining boiled mixture over the second layer of crackers and then top with one last layer of crackers.

Combine the butterscotch chips, chocolate chips and peanut butter in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave at 50 percent, stirring every 60 seconds, until melted and smooth. (The butterscotch chips will be the last to melt, and if you want to leave them a bit lumpy it's okay. The texture makes the cookies interesting.) Pour over the bars.

Let cool in the pan for 1 hour and then chill for about 30 minutes, or as long as it takes for the final topping to set. When it has set, remove from the refrigerator, lift from the pan, set on a cutting board and cut into 32 bars, or more. They are quite rich.

Times testing note: You'll need about three sleeves — one box — of Ritz crackers for this recipe. For the graham cracker crumbs, purchase a box of already pulverized crackers. That way you'll be ensured uniform crumbs.

Yield: At least 32, and more if you cut them smaller.

Freezeworthy: No.

Submitted by Janet K. Keeler from The Daily Cookie by Anna Ginsburg

Cookies tested by Karen Pryslopski and Janet K. Keeler

Photos by Scott Keeler

Tampa Bay Times

Readers' best recipes for Christmas cookies 11/27/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 3:23pm]

    

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