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Mom's holiday crescent cookies

Mom's holiday crescent cookies
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, 15 minutes, plus chilling and cooling times | Makes 40 cookies
Note: "I have fond memories of helping my mother bake cookies each year in the kitchen as we would listen to Christmas carols. These holiday crescents were a favorite of hers, and it wouldn't be Christmas without having a platter of them on the table." - Jeanne Kantak
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups (8.5 ounces) flour
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/8 teaspoons active-dry yeast (half a package)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
  • 1/2 cup pistachios, chopped
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted, plus extra for dusting the finished cookies

Step 1In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl using a hand mixer, beat together the butter and flour. Beat in the sour cream, yeast and egg yolks, then beat in the salt just until combined. Gather the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least one hour.

Step 2While the dough is chilling, make the filling. In a small bowl, combine the cranberries, pistachios, granulated sugar and orange zest. In a separate bowl, beat together the egg whites and one-half cup powdered sugar until combined.

Step 3Heat the oven to 350 degrees. On a surface lightly dusted with powdered sugar, divide the dough into 5 equal pieces.

Step 4Work with one piece at a time, keeping the remaining pieces refrigerated. Roll the piece into a circle approximately 8 inches in diameter, working quickly so the dough does not warm. Cut the circle into 8 wedges (as with a pizza or pie), and brush over a light coating of the beaten egg white mixture.

Step 5Sprinkle over the cranberry-pistachio filling and, starting at the wide end, roll up each wedge to form a crescent. Place the crescents on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough, forming crescents. Space the cookies 1 to 2 inches apart, using additional baking sheets as needed to fit all the cookies.

Step 6Bake the cookies until set and lightly browned, about 15 minutes, rotating halfway through for even baking, then cool on a rack. Dust lightly with powdered sugar before serving.

Each cookie:
Calories 80; Protein 1 gram; Carbohydrates 10 grams; Fiber 0; Fat 4 grams; Saturated fat 2 grams; Cholesterol 17 mg; Sugar 5 grams; Sodium 9 mg
Found a problem? Let us know at cookbook@latimes.com
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