Christmas is the time of year to enjoy a variety of sweet treats, especially cookies.
So we at The Times decided to hold Cookie Crunchtime, a cookie contest pitting local residents against one another to find the best cookie recipe — and, as a gift to you, dear readers, provide it to you in time for the holidays.
Judges included Lois Stepp of The Party Shop on Shallowford Road in Gainesville; Loraine Anglin, bakery manager at J&J Foods on Limestone Parkway in Gainesville; and Tom Reed, chief photographer at The Times who enjoys baking cookies each year at Christmastime. (Tom enjoys Christmas cookies so much, he traditionally takes a week off of work to focus on baking them for friends and family.)
Cookies were judged on appearance, texture, taste and creativity. Submissions were creative, and fruit was a popular addition.
In the end, first place was a tie. Megan Martin with her Cranberry Jumbles and Carolyn Mahar with her Macadamia Butter Cookies with Dried Cranberries and Ginger received the most points.
So, in time for family holiday gatherings and friendly get-togethers, here are the winning recipes. Just click in the window above to download the recipe cards. Enjoy!
Macadamia Butter Cookies with Dried Cranberries and Ginger, first place
Carolyn Mahar of Gainesville submitted these cookies, which our judges found distinct and different. The recipe calls for 1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger, which gave the cookies their zing.
"They're more uniform in shape (than other varieties). The taste is distinct," Stepp said. She also noted the cookie had a crunch, but was chewy as well. Anglin noted that "it was just different."
Cranberry Jumbles, first place
This cookie was quite a mixture of tasty ingredients. The recipe from Megan Martin of Flowery Branch included oatmeal, walnuts, Craisins, butterscotch chips, white chocolate chips, semisweet chocolate chips and Reese's peanut butter chips. Reed said it was almost too many ingredients, but the creation scored high in creativity and texture.
Date Roll Cookies, second place
Justin Law, 11, of Gainesville made these cookies using his great-grandmother Mary Schultz's recipe. Stepp said she would have liked to taste more date and that the cookies should have been thicker, but Reed said this variety was his personal favorite.
Blackberry Sugar Cookies, third place
These purple cookies looked quite festive with red and green sprinkles on top. Lynda Holmes of Flowery Branch created the recipe, which calls for mashed, fresh blackberries. Stepp said the cookies weren't sweet enough. Anglin said she'd never had a cookie with blackberries, and that including the fruit was a creative choice.