The second annual Alabama Living Christmas Cookie Contest attracted more than double the number of recipes as last year’s contest and included some traditional favorites along with new cookies we hadn’t tasted before.
The magazine staff baked 11 of the cookies and enlisted the help of food blogger and columnist Brooke Burks of The Buttered Home, along with staff members at the Alabama Rural Electric Association, to be judges. The winners were Sarah Baxter, who received the $100 first-place prize for her Praline Cookies; Edwina F. Bell, who won the $75 second-place prize for Noels; and Emily Strickland, winner of the $50 third-place award for her Nuttin’ But Good cookies. We hope you enjoy making these cookies for your family and friends this holiday season.
Sarah Baxter has been making her Praline Cookies for more than 20 years. “I love pralines,” she said. “What I like about it is that the recipe makes so much that I can make pralines with the leftover topping.” The secret to making the best topping is beating it with a wooden spoon, she said. A retired teacher, Baxter said the original recipe was part of an annual Christmas cookie swap years ago with an investment group. “It reminds me of cookies we made in home economics; we called them ice cream cookies. I’ll be making some again soon.”
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and brown sugar. Beat until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; mix well. Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add to creamed mixture; stir until mixed. Drop by teaspoonful onto ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten just slightly. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool 1 minute. Place on cooling rack. Cool completely.
Put cream and brown sugar in medium pan. Heat almost to a boil and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly (don’t let it boil at all). Remove from heat; add sugars and pecans at once. Beat well with wooden spoon until thick, 3 or 4 minutes. Drop teaspoonful on each cookie. There will be leftover topping. Drop by teaspoonful on wax paper and you have delicious pralines to serve with your cookies. Store in airtight container. Makes about 30 cookies.
Edwina Bell has made her Noels (other recipes may call them Mexican Wedding Cookies or other names) for many years, and they are a special favorite of her daughter who lives in Tennessee. Luckily, pecans are plentiful in her family, as her older brother has pecan trees and shares their bounty. Bell takes them to a nursery in Leroy that shells them, and she’s ready to make another batch of the powdered sugar treats.
Cream together margarine and powdered sugar. Add remaining ingredients. Mix well. Shape into small balls and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Partially cool and roll balls in more powdered sugar.
Our third-place winner, Emily Strickland, already has experience winning prizes for her cooking. The 18-year-old college student took first place in the junior cookie division at the National Peanut Festival for her “Nuttin But Good” cookies. “I wanted to make a peanut butter cookie,” she says, “so I took a basic peanut butter cookie recipe and added my favorites.” Those included Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Peanut Butter Chips and Peanut Butter M&M’s, for plenty of rich peanut butter flavor without adding actual peanut butter.
Whisk dry ingredients together: all-purpose flour, baking soda and salt. (Whisking ensures ingredients are evenly dispersed throughout cookie dough.) Next, beat the butter and both brown and white sugars together for 1 to 2 minutes until they are well-combined. Mix in the eggs one at a time and then add the vanilla extract. Additionally, stop to scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally. Add your dry ingredients to the butter/sugar mixture and mix until they are just combined. Mix in the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, M&M’s and chips by gently folding them into the cookie dough until they are incorporated. Line baking pans with parchment paper so cookies will not stick. Use an ice cream or cookie scoop to dip out cookie dough, allowing each cookie to be an equal proportion. Set the oven to 350 degrees and bake cookies for 10 to 12 minutes. Cookie tops should be set and have a golden-brown edge. Remove from oven and cool.
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons milk
⅛ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1¼ cups old-fashioned rolled oats
½ cup pecans, finely chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 4 baking sheets with parchment paper. Beat butter and sugar with electric mixer on high speed for 2 minutes. Beat in flour, salt, milk, vanilla and orange zest until well-mixed. Stir in oats and pecans with wooden spoon until evenly mixed. With lightly floured hands, shape dough into 1-inch balls and place about 3 inches apart (9 per sheet). Bake 11-13 minutes until cookies are flat, bubbly and turning golden brown. Cool cookies on pan for 1 minute; carefully lift parchment with cookies onto counter to cool for 2-3 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack. Let cookies cool completely. Cook’s note: Drizzle melted white chocolate or milk chocolate for decoration.
Jane A. Smith
The Buttered Home
Seeing all the great cookies included in this contest inspired us to make something new and different. We use Priester’s Pecans Fiddlesticks candy to create a delicious holiday cookie. Warm cinnamon accents the chocolate, caramel and pecans of this basic vanilla cookie. Start a tradition in your home by making homemade goodies with the addition of ready-to-eat treats.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, cream butter, sugar, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla until well-mixed.
Add baking soda, cinnamon and half the flour. Mix well. Add the other half of the flour and mix again. Stir in cubed Fiddlesticks until well-combined.
Spoon out cookies on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Chill for at least 30 minutes.
After chill time is complete, bake for 12-14 minutes. Cool on pan for 10 minutes and transfer to a cooling rack.
This story originally appeared in Alabama Living magazine.