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Candy cane chocolate mandel bread

Candy cane chocolate mandel bread
Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

Beyond the colorful decorations and after the initial rush of sugar, holiday cookies are about memories, tradition and sharing with those close to us. Be they humble or ornate, our baked goods are used to celebrate and give thanks — thanks for our childhoods, the blessings of family and friends and the magic that can be found only this time of year.

This fall, we again asked L.A. Times readers to share their special cookie recipes with us for our fourth annual Holiday Cookie Bake-Off and then to help us narrow down their favorites to the top 50.

We received more than 250 submissions, and more than 3,700 votes were cast. We took the top vote-getters to Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Pasadena, where students spent one Saturday morning baking batches of cookies. L.A. Times Food Editor Russ Parsons, Deputy Food Editor Betty Hallock and Times Test Kitchen Director Noelle Carter joined KCRW's "Good Food" host, Evan Kleiman, to taste and test each cookie, narrowing it to our 10 favorites.

Earlier this week, the L.A. Times Test Kitchen was jammed with happy bakers and their helpers for this year's photo shoot. Amazing cookies, memories and traditions were shared. The Czechoslovakian nut bars bring back memories of a finalist's Slovak heritage. The holiday crescent cookies bring sisters together one afternoon each year to bake in their mother's honor. The frosted orange crispies were given to a finalist years ago by a military wife; she would serve her cookies on a silver tray at the officers club. The candy cane chocolate mandel bread is a merging of holidays for one family, Hanukkah and Christmas honored together.

As much as holiday cookies might keep memories and tradition alive, they also help to share memories and traditions with new friends in new places. One family is known far and wide for its chocolate peppermint snaps: "Everywhere we have lived — Madrid, Nairobi, Suva, SoCal — we've given these cookies as Christmas gifts to friends."

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Total time: 1 hour, plus chilling and cooling times | Makes 3 to 4 dozen cookies
Note: "My family just loves peppermint candy canes. Mandel bread is also a favorite around this time of year, and what better way to combine Christmas and Hanukkah and honor the diversity in our family." - Gail Field
  • 2 1/2 cups (10.6 ounces) flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/3 cup Dutch process (alkalized) cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup crushed peppermint candy canes, plus ¼ to ½ cup for decoration, divided
  • 1 pound white chocolate, melted, for decorating

Step 1In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and espresso powder, and set aside.

Step 2In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat together canola oil, eggs and vanilla. Beat in the sugar, then gradually beat in the dry ingredients. Stir in 1 cup crushed candy cane pieces by hand.

Step 3Cover the mixing bowl and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours.

Step 4Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. Form the dough into 2 slightly flattened logs, each about 12 inches long and 3 inches wide. Place the logs a few inches apart on the prepared cookie sheet (the logs will spread as they bake) and bake for 25 minutes, rotating halfway through for even baking.

Step 5Remove and cool the logs for 20 to 25 minutes. Meanwhile, reduce the oven to 300 degrees. Cut the cooled logs crosswise into one-half-inch thick slices, and separate the slices about one-fourth inch, leaving the slices upright. Bake for an additional 10 minutes to set and begin to harden the cookies.

Step 6Cool completely, then drizzle with the melted white chocolate; you may not use all of the chocolate. Sprinkle over the remaining one-fourth to one-half cup crushed candy canes. Refrigerate the cookies to set the chocolate.

Each of 48 cookies:
Calories 143; Protein 2 grams; Carbohydrates 18 grams; Fiber 0; Fat 7 grams; Saturated fat 2 grams; Cholesterol 15 mg; Sugar 12 grams; Sodium 26 mg
Found a problem? Let us know at cookbook@latimes.com
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