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Chocolate peppermint snaps

Chocolate peppermint snaps
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."

Total time: 50 minutes | Makes 4 to 6 dozen cookies
Note: "Chocolate? Peppermint? What could be better for the holidays than a mash-up of chocolate and peppermint? Everywhere we have lived — Madrid, Nairobi, Suva [Fiji], SoCal — we've given these cookies as Christmas gifts to friends." - Ben Rode
  • 1 (6-ounce) package chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup plus 1½ tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup plus ½ cup sugar, divided
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (8.5 ounces) flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup crushed peppermint candy

Step 1Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the chocolate using a double-boiler, or in a microwave, stirring every few seconds. Set aside to cool slightly.

Step 2In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, cream the butter. Gradually add three-fourths cup sugar, beating until the mixture is light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in the melted chocolate. Beat in the egg until combined, then the corn syrup. Beat in the peppermint and vanilla extracts.

Step 3 In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Stir the flour mixture in with the chocolate mixture, then stir in the crushed peppermint candy.

Step 4Shape the dough into 1-inch balls, and roll the balls in the remaining one-half cup sugar. Place the balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing the cookies about 2 inches apart. Bake the cookies until the edges are set, 12 to 15 minutes.

Step 5 Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Each of 72 cookies:
Calories 57; Protein 1 gram; Carbohydrates 9 grams; Fiber 0; Fat 2 grams; Saturated fat 1 gram; Cholesterol 7 mg; Sugar 6 grams; Sodium 28 mg
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