3 cookie recipes to sweeten your holidays

Reader recipes for chocolate mint, crispy espresso and maple-pecan cookies were selected for inclusion in “Quintessential Cookies: Scrumptious Holiday Recipes from The Seattle Times.”

We’d be lying if we said it was a chore to judge the many entries to the recent Seattle Times cookie contest. Though it was hard to pick winners.

After much sampling — and re-sampling — we’re now ready to share the three winning recipes. Judge for yourself! And enjoy.

Chocolate Mint Cookies

From reader Robin Sheaffer: “I was told my version of this recipe came from a 1989 issue of the now-defunct Ladies’ Home Journal. Baking has never been a priority of mine, and now that I’m ‘sort of’ retired, it’s even less so — I’m just too busy! However, these cookies are everyone’sfavorites, so I’ll continue to bake them at least during the holidays each year. I’ve varied the recipe over the years, adding caramels, various types of meltable candies and various types of nuts — the options are endless.”

¾ cup butter

½ teaspoon salt

1½ cups brown sugar

2 tablespoons water

12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

2 eggs

1¼ teaspoons baking soda

2½ cups flour

½ cup chopped walnuts

Andes Mints (see note)

1. Heat butter, salt, brown sugar and water over low heat until butter is melted. Add chocolate chips, stir until partly melted, remove from heat and continue stirring until melted. Pour into mixing bowl and let stand 10 minutes to cool.

2. At medium speed, mix in eggs, then decrease speed to low and add dry ingredients. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

4. Roll dough into small balls (the size of a large walnut) and place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 6-8 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately place an Andes Mint on top of each hot cookie.

5. Leave on baking sheet for 2 minutes to soften cookie and allow candy to melt.

6. Spread candy over cookies, then remove from baking sheet. Once cookies are fully cooled and the candy spread has solidified, cookies may be placed into container or bags and frozen for future use (if you can wait!).

Note: If cookies are 1½- to 2-inches in diameter when cooked, you can use half an Andes Mint per cookie for topping. Other ideas for toppings include chocolate chips (any flavor) or slices of small candy bars, such as Milky Way. Anything that melts for spreading will work.

Crispy Espresso Cookies

From reader Bonnie Fragomeni: “I’ve been baking since I was 4 years old, when my mom let me help her make cookies each week for my oldest sister, Susie, who was away at college. At that young age, I learned that making a special treat for someone, just because you know it will make them happy, is what ‘kitchen love’ is all about. This recipe actually came from Susie, and we’ve included it in our annual Cookie Day since 1997.”

1¾ cups flour

¾ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon espresso powder

¾ cup butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

1 egg yolk

3 tablespoons (approximately) sugar

Chocolate-covered coffee beans

1. In a bowl, stir together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and espresso powder to blend thoroughly; set aside. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. In mixer bowl, combine butter and sugar and beat until fluffy. Beat in vanilla, then egg yolk. Gradually add flour mixture, beating until just well combined.

3. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place about 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Dip a flat-bottomed glass in sugar, and use it to flatten each cookie to a thickness of about ¼ inch. In the center of each cookie, place a chocolate-covered coffee bean.

4. Bake until cookies are golden brown and feel firm when touched lightly (10 to 12 minutes). Let stand on baking sheets for 1 to 2 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool.

Maple-Pecan Cookies

Reader Deborah Binder describes herself as “dancing with N.E.D.” (no evidence of disease) after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2009. She is a foodie who loves to cook from scratch and share her experiments with her family. Her current interest in food is learning to eat for health and wellness, while at the same time enjoying the pleasures of the table. As Julia Child once said, “Everything in moderation, including butter.” Cookies happen to be her weakness. Deborah grew up baking cookies for the holidays with her mother. “We would bake over 12 different kinds of cookies and make up gift boxes for neighbors, teachers and friends.”

2 cups butter

1 cup sugar

¼ cup pure maple syrup

1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

4½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2¼ cups chopped pecans

1. Cream butter; add sugar and beat until fluffy.

2. Whisk together maple syrup, egg yolk and vanilla. Slowly add to butter/sugar mixture. Scrape bowl and mix again. Slowly incorporate flour. Do not overmix. Add chopped pecans.

3. Roll dough into logs of about 1½ inches in diameter. Wrap in wax or parchment paper. Refrigerate.

4. Slice and bake on baking sheet lined with parchment paper in 350-degree oven for 9-12 minutes. Watch carefully. This dough freezes well, so you can make it ahead and bake when needed.

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