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Recipe category: Desserts | All categories

Suzie's sugar cookies

Suzie's sugar 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."

Total time: 1 hour, plus chilling and decorating times | Makes approximately 2½ dozen (3-inch) cookies
Note: "My mother made these cookies only once a year for Christmas, and somehow, only on Christmas Eve, after she had sent us to bed. They magically appeared in the morning. As time went on and it got to be too much for her, I stepped up and made them for the family." - Sheri Miyamoto

Sugar cookies

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup superfine (baker's) sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups (12.75 ounces) flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Step 1In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl using a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until well blended, 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until combined, then beat in the vanilla extract.

Step 2In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Beat the dry ingredients into the butter mixture to form a dough, then cover and refrigerate the dough until well-chilled, preferably overnight.

Step 3Heat the oven to 350 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a thickness of one-fourth inch. Use various cookie cutters to cut out desired shapes, and space the cookies a couple of inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

Step 4Bake the cookies until the edges are lightly browned and the cookies are set, 10 to 12 minutes (time will vary depending on the size and shapes of the cookies), rotating the cookies halfway through for even coloring. Cool completely before frosting.

Lemon buttercream

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 4 cups (approximately 1-pound box) powdered sugar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons milk, more if needed
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons lemon extract
  • Food coloring, as desired

Step 1In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in milk as needed to thin; the icing should be creamy but not runny. Add lemon extract to taste. This makes approximately 21/4 cups buttercream. Color the buttercream with food coloring as desired to decorate the cookies, then set the cookies aside to dry before serving.

Each of 30 cookies:
Calories 221; Protein 2 grams; Carbohydrates 32 grams; Fiber 0; Fat 10 grams; Saturated fat 6 grams; Cholesterol 37 mg; Sugar 22 grams; Sodium 43 mg
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