As soon as we announced the kickoff of The Takeout’s second annual Holiday Cookie Contest, we knew that this year’s submissions would have to be something special if they had any chance of approaching last year’s entries. Readers in 2020 submitted a wide array of inventive and memorable cookie recipes, each with a compelling story about how the cookie in question had become a recurring part of their repertoire. Last year’s winner—Chocolate Thai Peanut Butter Cookies—left us head over heels in love with a flavor profile we’d never encountered before. But 2021 raised the bar yet again, and for the second year in a row, we were faced with a tough decision. We thank you, always, for making these choices so difficult.
Recipes were tested by five intrepid bakers on The Takeout staff, and each finished product was enthusiastically taste-tested by loved ones and colleagues alike. Criteria used to gauge the winner included:
- Uniqueness: What is the likelihood that this cookie would stand out at a holiday cookie exchange (or on a cookie table)?
- Clarity of instruction: Is this recipe written in a way that novice bakers could follow it and produce replicable, tasty results?
- Accessibility: Does this cookie require 99 different little expensive ingredients that you’ll only use once, or is it composed of more widely available pantry staples?
- General delightfulness: Does this cookie make us happy when we eat it?
It was a tight race, but we found one cookie that, by popular vote, fulfilled the above criteria better than any other. The winner of the 2021 Holiday Cookie Contest is Cran-Rosemary Corn Cookies, submitted by reader Emily Larsen!
Consider this an “everyday cookie”—a not-too-sweet treat you can indulge in just about any time of the day. It’s also an incredibly forgiving recipe; we know this because we admittedly misread a crucial ingredient while baking our first batch, using cornmeal in the dough instead of corn powder as directed. Even with the much coarser cornmeal, though, the cookie had a great texture and a nice yielding bite. It’s rare that a mistake tastes this delicious.
“Every year I bake hundreds of cookies to share with the people in my life,” writes Larsen. “These cookies were originally inspired by the Milk Bar Corn Cookie, but have turned into something quite different over time... I worked the Corn Cookie concept into more of a slice and bake format. Adding the cranberries and rosemary gives them a delicious holiday flavor.”
The best cookie recipes are the ones that grow and evolve to suit the baker (and the recipients). Combine that with the fact that the recipe calls for fewer than 1o ingredients, and the Cran-Rosemary Corn Cookie ascended to the top of our rankings. Here is the recipe, below. We hope you enjoy discovering these holiday flavors for yourself.
Recipe courtesy of Emily Larsen
- 3/4 cup dried cranberries
- 2 Tbsp. fresh rosemary leaves
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 cup corn powder
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- Red sugar crystals
Combine dried cranberries and fresh rosemary in a food processor, pulse until finely chopped. Set aside.
Cut up butter into pieces and place in a bowl of a stand mixer, add the sugar and cream together for about 2 minutes. Add in the egg yolks one at a time, just until incorporated.
Add in the salt and corn powder and mix for approximately 30 seconds, just until fully incorporated.
Turn the mixer down to low and add the flour and cran-rosemary mixture. Mix just until you no longer see flour.
Place some plastic wrap on your counter and turn out the dough. Using your hands roll out the dough into a log. Roll the log in red sugar crystals then wrap tightly in plastic. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Unwrap the dough and slice into 1/2" thick rounds. Bake for approximately 16-18 minutes, until just golden. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.
Thank you to Emily Larsen, and to all the home bakers who graciously shared their recipes with The Takeout this year! Can’t wait to do it all again in 2022.