February 3, 2023

rubbedindetroit

Qualified food specialists

Houston Chronicle names top reader submission

4 min read

In nearly a decade of our annual cookie contest drawn from Houston Chronicle readers’ recipes, we’ve seen it all. There have been mighty submissions any cookie fan would be proud to serve and messy failures we grieved over.

But that’s the way — forgive the pun — the cookie crumbles.

This year’s candidates for the best holiday cookies were an impressive bunch, ranging from nutty nibblers to chocolate indulgences to chewy bars. As always, our baking team fielded dozens of recipes as we whittled down to finalists — and a winner.

Houston Chronicle restaurant critic Alison Cook was our judge this year, and after sampling all the tested recipes, chose a winner: Salted Rosemary Shortbread from Joanne Prashad of Houston.

This was Cook’s reaction to the cookie: “Oh. My. God. Just the finesse of the lovely sandy texture and the way the salt and herbaceous character of the rosemary contrasts with a gentle sweetness. And the beautiful, rounded edges of the loaf shape … just perfection! I could eat a stack of these.”

We thank Prashad and all our readers for submitting their recipes, many of which came with fond family remembrances of beloved holiday traditions.

Recipe testers: Greg Morago, Jody Schmal, Melissa Aguilar, Bao Ong, Diane Cowen, Marcia Ogasawara, Elizabeth Pudwill, Bridget Schmal and Jennifer Chang.

Salted Rosemary Shortbread (Critic’s Pick)

Salted Rosemary Shortbread

Brett Coomer / Staff photographer

This savory shortbread offers great butter flavor, a lovely smooth cookie texture, herbal notes from the rosemary and a salty punch. Perfect for a charcuterie board. Our contest winner!

Recipe

Raspberry Horns

Raspberry Horns

Raspberry Horns

Brett Coomer / Staff photographer

The popular Mexican wedding cake takes a delicious Eastern European detour. Instead of a dense mound of dough studded with nuts, the pastry dough puffs up like a mini croissant and is filled with raspberry preserves mixed with slivers of almonds. A generous dusting of powdered sugar gives it the sweet holiday touch.

Recipe

Molasses Ginger Cookies

Molasses Ginger Cookies

Molasses Ginger Cookies

Brett Coomer / Staff photographer

Kids will love decorating this soft cookie filled with warm, fragrant spices.

Recipe

Apricot Bars

Apricot Bars

Apricot Bars

Brett Coomer / Staff photographer

These sweet, gooey bar cookies are melt-in-your-mouth good. They’re adaptable, too, since you could substitute raspberry, cherry or any other preserves for the filling.

Recipe

Ribbon Cookies

Ribbon Cookies

Ribbon Cookies

Brett Coomer / Staff photographer

This triple-layer crumbly cookie, which involves poppy seeds, cherries, and chocolate, is both festive and tastes great.

Recipe

Lemon Ricotta Cookies

Lemon Ricotta Cookies

Lemon Ricotta Cookies

Brett Coomer / Staff photographer

The light, soft, fluffy cookie offers a welcome tang from lemon juice and zest in both dough and icing.

Recipe

Amaretti Cookies

Amaretti Cookies

Amaretti Cookies

Brett Coomer / Staff photographer

These cookies are classic of the amaretti form. Subtle almond flavor but not overbearing. Delicate, crackly exterior with really good elasticity inside and a slight chewy pull.

Recipe

Peppermint Merry Mocha Cookies

Peppermint Merry Mocha Cookies

Peppermint Merry Mocha Cookies

Brett Coomer / Staff photographer

A chewy, capital-H Holiday cookie adorned with crushed peppermint and full of chocolate-y coffee flavor.

Recipe

Eggnog Snickerdoodles

Eggnog Snickerdoodles

Eggnog Snickerdoodles

Brett Coomer / Staff photographer

Soft, chewy interior, crisp exterior. Rummy, nutmeggy, eggnog flavor — the essence of a seasonal cookie.

Recipe

Almond Butter Cups

Almond Butter Cups

Almond Butter Cups

Brett Coomer / Staff photographer

Adorable little gems made in mini muffin pans. Very sweet with interesting textural variations between the shell and the almond paste filling and a meringue-y top.

Recipe

Hungarian Butter Balls

Hungarian Butter Balls

Hungarian Butter Balls

Brett Coomer / Staff photographer

Whether dipped or not, the crunchy-but-not-too-crunchy ball cookie has a terrific balance of salt, and a nice sandy texture.

Recipe

Chocolate Malted Cookies

Chocolate Malted Cookies

Chocolate Malted Cookies

Brett Coomer / Staff photographer

These classic-with-a-slight-twist chocolate chip cookies have a pleasant texture with a little chew and a little crispness.

Recipe

Fig Squares

Fig Squares

Fig Squares

Brett Coomer / Staff photographer

A soft and cakelike bar with pleasant figgy taste. Quite unusual.

Recipe

Chewy Granny Smith Cookies

Chewy Granny Smith Cookies

Chewy Granny Smith Cookies

Brett Coomer / Staff photographer

We prefer to think of these gooey-soft cookies as being fairly healthy due to the fruit content. Nevermind the cup of sugar.

Recipe

Lemon Cheese Snaps

Lemon Cheese Snaps

Lemon Cheese Snaps

Brett Coomer / Staff photographer

Interesting cookie. The savory flavor from the Gruyere and cheddar swells up at the end in a nice way.

Recipe

Kolache Cookies

Kolache Cookies

Kolache Cookies

Brett Coomer / Staff photographer

The dough on these pretty specimens has light, layery texture, while the jam has a sticky quality and hint of tartness. Vintage in a cookie.

Recipe

Edith Telloni Meringue Bars

Edith Telloni Meringue Bars

Edith Telloni Meringue Bars

Brett Coomer / Staff photographer

These super sweet, chocolate-y bars are a mashup of brownie and cookie. They have an appealing cracked meringue texture on the top.

Recipe

Dot’s Sand Tarts

Dot’s Sand Tarts

Dot’s Sand Tarts

Brett Coomer / Staff photographer

A cinch to make. Straight ahead classic sand tart taste and texture.

Recipe

Maple Glazed Oatmeal Cookies

Maple Glazed Oatmeal Cookies

Maple Glazed Oatmeal Cookies

Brett Coomer / Staff photographer

These hearty oatmeal cookies are a cinch to prepare and are sure to please a crowd. Great maple glaze.

Recipe

Texas Snowflakes

Texas Snowflakes

Texas Snowflakes

Brett Coomer / Staff photographer

The holy trinity of sugar, fat and flour rarely disappoints. This recipe is essentially a variation on the Mexican Wedding Cake that’s just as good with a sip of coffee or tea.

Recipe

 

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