10 BEST COOKIE RECIPES: A decade’s worth of winners from the Dayton Daily News holiday baking contest

The Dayton Daily News has held a holiday cookie contest since 1990.  STAFF FILE PHOTOS BY LISA POWELL
Caption
The Dayton Daily News has held a holiday cookie contest since 1990. STAFF FILE PHOTOS BY LISA POWELL

Credit: Lisa Powell

Credit: Lisa Powell

This year we need cookies more than ever.

For some, baking is a soothing distraction during the pandemic.

For others, combining butter, sugar and flour and decorating with festive frosting is a seasonal custom rich with family tradition.

The Dayton Daily News has held a holiday cookie contest since 1990, and bakers from across the region have submitted thousands of recipes over those three decades.

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Each year we publish the top recipes so readers can replicate the winning desserts at home.

The newspaper will not hold the contest this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, and was also not able to have the contest in 2020. But we’ve compiled the first-place recipes from the last 10 years of the contest, beginning in 2019, so you can continue the delicious holiday-baking tradition.

These recipes are proven winners. You and your family might just find a new favorite.

Caption
Geni Thurin of Dayton won first place in the 2019 Dayton Daily News Cookie Contest with her White Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Cookies. LISA POWELL / STAFF

Geni Thurin of Dayton won first place in the 2019 Dayton Daily News Cookie Contest with her White Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Cookies. LISA POWELL / STAFF
Caption
Geni Thurin of Dayton won first place in the 2019 Dayton Daily News Cookie Contest with her White Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Cookies. LISA POWELL / STAFF

2019

WHITE CHOCOLATE CRANBERRY PISTACHIO COOKIES

Submitted by Geni Thurin of Dayton

Ingredients:

½ cup unsalted butter, softened (it’s essential that it’s softened)

½ cup packed brown sugar

½ cup white sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1½ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 cup white chocolate chips

½ cup chopped shelled pistachio nuts

1 cup dried cranberries (or dried cherries)

*If using unsalted nuts, add an extra ¼ teaspoon salt to the flour

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter and the sugars. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars until fluffy and pale in color, 3-5 minutes. This step is important for ensuring soft, chewy cookies. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract.

3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking soda. Using a wooden spoon, carefully stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture, just until combined. Stir in the white chocolate chips, dried cranberries and pistachio nuts.

4. Drop heaping spoonfuls of the batter onto the greased cookie sheet.

5. Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes or until they just begin to turn golden around the edges. Allow the cookies to cool for 2 minutes on the cookie sheet before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: About two dozen cookies

Caption
Terry Rich of Dayton won first-place in the 2018 Dayton Daily News Cookie Contest with her White Chocolate Caramel Toffee Blondies. LISA POWELL / STAFF

Terry Rich of Dayton won first-place in the 2018 Dayton Daily News Cookie Contest with her White Chocolate Caramel Toffee Blondies. LISA POWELL / STAFF
Caption
Terry Rich of Dayton won first-place in the 2018 Dayton Daily News Cookie Contest with her White Chocolate Caramel Toffee Blondies. LISA POWELL / STAFF

2018

WHITE CHOCOLATE CARAMEL TOFFEE BLONDIES

Submitted by Terry Rich of Dayton

Ingredients:

2¼ cups of flour

2 teaspoons of salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

¾ cup of butter

1½ cups of granulated sugar

1 cup of brown sugar

3 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 12-ounce bag of white chocolate chips

1 cup of Heath milk chocolate toffee bits

1 11-ounce bag of caramel bits and 2 tablespoons milk

Instructions:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13-by-9-inch pan with foil. Spray foil with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

2. Mix flour, salt and baking powder together and set aside.

3. Cream butter and both sugars together until mixed well. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until fluffy.

4. Blend in flour mixture. Stir in half the bag of white chocolate chips and the cup of toffee bits.

5. Spread half the mixture into the prepared pan.

6. Bake on the middle rack for 15 minutes. Let cool slightly.

7. Place caramel bits and 2 tablespoons milk in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 1 minute. Stir and heat at intervals of 30 seconds until caramel is melted.

8. Pour caramel over the baked layer and layer remaining white chocolate chips on top of caramel and then top with remaining cookie dough. It is thick, so you can place in spoonsful across the chips and spread slightly. The dough will spread while cooking.

9. Bake on middle rack for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before cutting or the top will crack like a brownie. Once the bars are cooled completely, lift the slab from the pan using the foil. Place on a cutting board and cut to the desired size.

Cut into 24 bars.

Caption
Dayton Daily News Cookie Contest 2017 Entry #1 FIRST PLACE: Peachy Pistachio Icebox Cookies by Roxanne Williams of Springboro. LISA POWELL/STAFF

Dayton Daily News Cookie Contest 2017

Entry #1

FIRST PLACE: Peachy Pistachio Icebox Cookies by Roxanne Williams of Springboro. LISA POWELL/STAFF
Caption
Dayton Daily News Cookie Contest 2017 Entry #1 FIRST PLACE: Peachy Pistachio Icebox Cookies by Roxanne Williams of Springboro. LISA POWELL/STAFF

2017

PEACHY PISTACHIO ICEBOX COOKIES

Submitted by Roxanne Williams of Springboro

Ingredients:

1/2 cup salted butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking power

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup peach preserves

1/2 cup finely chopped roasted salted pistachios

Instructions:

1. Cut parchment paper into eight 12-by-6 inch rectangles.

2. Beat butter with a heavy duty stand mixer on medium speed until creamy for about 2 minutes. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy about 3 minutes. Add egg and vanilla and beat until combined.

3. Stir together flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.

4. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating on low speed until blended.

5. Transfer dough to work surface and divide into four equal portions. Place one dough portion between 2 parchment rectangles. Roll out dough to 9-by-3 inch rectangle about 1/4 inch thick. Repeat with remaining dough portions. Place on baking sheet and freeze 30 minutes.

6. Pulse peach preserves in a food processor until large pieces are broken apart.

7. Remove dough from freezer. Remove top pieces of parchment from the dough rectangles. Spread about 2 1/2 tablespoons of the preserves over one dough rectangle. Sprinkle with about 8 teaspoons of finely chopped pistachios. Top with one dough rectangle. Repeat layers with remaining preserves, pistachios and dough, leaving the top rectangle uncoated.

8. Trim dough stack to an 8 1/2-by-3 1/4-inch brick. Wrap in plastic and freeze for an hour.

9. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove dough from freezer and slice into 1/4-inch thick rectangles. Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheets.

10. Bake in preheated oven until lightly browned 13-15 minutes. Cool on baking sheets 5 minutes. Transfer to wire racks and cool completely for 20 minutes.

Makes 2 dozen cookies

— This recipe originated from Southern Living magazine.

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Caption
The first-place winner in the 2016 Dayton Daily News Holiday Cookie contest were these Chocolate Ginger Molasses Sandwich Cookies, submitted by Darrell Bickley of Centerville. LISA POWELL/STAFF

The first-place winner in the 2016 Dayton Daily News Holiday Cookie contest were these Chocolate Ginger Molasses Sandwich Cookies, submitted by Darrell Bickley of Centerville. LISA POWELL/STAFF
Caption
The first-place winner in the 2016 Dayton Daily News Holiday Cookie contest were these Chocolate Ginger Molasses Sandwich Cookies, submitted by Darrell Bickley of Centerville. LISA POWELL/STAFF

2016

CHOCOLATE GINGER MOLASSES SANDWICH COOKIES

Submitted by Darrell Bickley of Centerville

Ingredients:

3 cups flour

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon grated nutmeg

2 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 cup unsulfured molasses

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 tablespoon boiling water

4 tablespoons crystalized ginger, chopped

1/4 cup granulated sugar

Frosting ingredients:

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese

1 stick butter, softened slightly

1 teaspoon vanilla

5 cups powdered sugar

Decorative gems or sugar

Instructions:

1. Sift together the flour, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg and cocoa. Separately, mix together or beat with the paddle attachment on a stand mixer 2 sticks of butter until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Add the brown sugar and mix/beat until combined. Add the molasses and mix/beat until combined.

2. Dissolve the baking soda in the boiling water. Mix half of the flour-spice mixture into the butter-sugar mixture. Add the baking soda mixture, then the other half of the flour-spice mixture. Mix/beat in between each step.

3. Stir the candied ginger in by hand, pat the mixture into a 1-inch thick square, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for a few hours or overnight.

4. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Cut the dough into 48 equal squares and roll these into 48 balls. Roll the dough balls in the granulated sugar and place them about 2 inches apart on parchment-paper lined baking sheets. Bake 18-22 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Bake until they start to crack.

5. Put the unbaked dough back into the refrigerator until it’s ready to go into the oven.

6. Baked cookies should cool for 5 minutes before being transferred to a wire rack to fully cool.

7. While the cookies are baking, beat the cream cheese, remaining stick of butter and vanilla until fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and mix until you have a nice, fluffy frosting.

8. When the cookies are completely cool, ice one side of half the batch and sandwich them. The cookies’ iced edges can be rolled in decorative gems or sugar for a more festive look.

Caption
Red Velvet Cannoli Cream Sandwich Cookies by Laura Haber of Miamisburg. LISA POWELL / STAFF

Credit: Lisa Powell

Red Velvet Cannoli Cream Sandwich Cookies by Laura Haber of Miamisburg. LISA POWELL / STAFF
Caption
Red Velvet Cannoli Cream Sandwich Cookies by Laura Haber of Miamisburg. LISA POWELL / STAFF

Credit: Lisa Powell

Credit: Lisa Powell

2015

RED VELVET CANNOLI CREAM SANDWICH COOKIES

Submitted by Laura Haber of Miamisburg

Ingredients for cookies:

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

4 tablespoons cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

½ cup butter, room temperature

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

4 tablespoons buttermilk

4 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 tablespoons red food coloring

Ingredients for cannoli cream filling:

3/4 cup whole milk ricotta cheese

8 ounces mascarpone cheese

1/3 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Drizzle:

½ cup white chocolate chips

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Mix together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.

3. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time. Then beat in the buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla and red food coloring. Once combined, add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined.

4. Line a sheet tray with parchment paper. Using a small ice cream scoop, form 2-inch round circles. Recommendation: Use the bottom of a glass dipped into sugar to press the dough into the 2-inch circles.

5. Bake for 9-10 minutes until baked through. Cookies should be cake-like and light. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

6. For the cannoli cream filling, with a mixer, combine the ricotta cheese, mascarpone cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth. Stir in the mini chocolate chips.

7. Scoop the filling into a zipper bag. Cut the corner and squeeze approximately 2 tablespoons onto the bottom of half of the cooled cookies. Top each with another cookie.

8. For the drizzle, melt the white chocolate chips in the microwave, stirring occasionally, then put in a small zipper bag. Cut a tiny hole in the corner to squeeze a swirl on the top of each cookie.

Makes 20-24 sandwich cookies

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Caption
Caramel Snickerdoodle Bars. LISA POWELL / STAFF

Credit: Lisa Powell

Caramel Snickerdoodle Bars. LISA POWELL / STAFF
Caption
Caramel Snickerdoodle Bars. LISA POWELL / STAFF

Credit: Lisa Powell

Credit: Lisa Powell

2014

CARAMEL SNICKERDOODLE BARS

Submitted by Jean Schaney of Miamisburg

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, softened

2 cups packed brown sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2½ cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

¼ cup sugar

3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 cans 13.4 Nestle La Lechera dulce de leche

12 oz. white baking chocolate, chopped

1/3 cup heavy whipped cream

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 13-by-9-inch baking pan with parchment paper, letting ends extend over sides by 1 inch.

2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. In another bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt; gradually beat into cream mixture. Spread onto bottom of prepared pan.

3. In a small bowl, mix the sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle 3 tablespoons of the mixture over batter. Bake 25-30 minutes or until edges are light brown. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

4. Spread dulce de leche over crust. In a small saucepan, combine white baking chocolate, cream and corn syrup; cook and stir over low heat until smooth. Cool slightly. Spread over dulce de leche. Sprinkle with remaining cinnamon sugar, refrigerate covered at least 1 hour.

5. Lifting with parchment paper, remove from pan. Cut into bars. Refrigerate the leftovers.

Caption
Jelly Thumbprint Cookies by Theresa Steinbruegge of Kettering took first place in our contest. JIM WITMER / STAFF Cookie contest winners credit their moms | Cookie recipes

Jelly Thumbprint Cookies by Theresa Steinbruegge of Kettering took first place in our contest. JIM WITMER / STAFF Cookie contest winners credit their moms | Cookie recipes
Caption
Jelly Thumbprint Cookies by Theresa Steinbruegge of Kettering took first place in our contest. JIM WITMER / STAFF Cookie contest winners credit their moms | Cookie recipes

2013

JELLY THUMBPRINT COOKIES

Submitted by Theresa Steinbruegge of Kettering

Cream until smooth:

¾ pound butter (3 sticks)

1 cup granulated sugar

Add and mix well:

2 egg yolks

Blend in one-half cup at a time:

3½ cups flour

Form into balls the size of walnuts and place closely on a lightly greased or parchment covered cookie sheet. Flatten in the center with thumb and fill center with:

Apricot preserves, red currant or other jelly of your choice. Do not fill (or mound) jelly above top of thumbprint or jelly might run over.

Bake at 350º for about 9 min. or until edges are lightly browned.

Optional: Drizzle cookies with icing:

1 cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoons half-and-half or cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Put in a plastic zip bag and cut off just the tip of one corner to drizzle the icing on the cookies. Let icing set.

These cookies keep well up to eight weeks in an airtight container.

Caption
These delicious pecan bars submitted by Susette Kruckeberg of Versailles earned top prize in the Dayton Daily News 2012 Holiday Cookie Contest. STAFF/LISA POWELL

Credit: Lisa Powell

These delicious pecan bars submitted by Susette Kruckeberg of Versailles earned top prize in the Dayton Daily News 2012 Holiday Cookie Contest. STAFF/LISA POWELL
Caption
These delicious pecan bars submitted by Susette Kruckeberg of Versailles earned top prize in the Dayton Daily News 2012 Holiday Cookie Contest. STAFF/LISA POWELL

Credit: Lisa Powell

Credit: Lisa Powell

2012

PECAN BARS

Submitted by Susette Kruckeberg of Versailles

Ingredients for dough:

½ cup of granulated sugar

12 tablespoons of butter

1¾ cups of all-purpose flour

Ingredients for topping:

1 cup of butter

1¼ cups of packed brown sugar

½ cup of honey

¼ cup of milk

2 cups of chopped pecans

1 cup of pistachio meats

1 cup of dried, chopped cranberries

Instructions:

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Line a 9-by-13 inch pan with foil.

3. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to blend the sugar and 12 tablespoons of butter until creamy.

4. Mix in flour on low speed until well combined.

5. Press the mixture — it will be crumbly — into the prepared pan. Prick all over with a fork; then, bake for 20 minutes. Set aside to cool, but leave oven on.

6. Meanwhile, in a medium sauce pan over medium high heat, bring the butter, sugar, honey and cream to a boil. Simmer, stirring frequently, until mixture reads 240 degrees F on a candy thermometer.

7. Stir in pecans, pistachios and cranberries.

8. Pour the mixture over baked crust; then, bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the mixture is bubbly all over. Let cool completely.

9. Use foil to lift the entire slab from the pan. Cut into bars. Makes 60 bars.

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Caption
Dayton Daily News 2011 Cookie Contest winner Cinnamon Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Credit: Dayton Daily News

Dayton Daily News 2011 Cookie Contest winner Cinnamon Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Caption
Dayton Daily News 2011 Cookie Contest winner Cinnamon Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Credit: Dayton Daily News

Credit: Dayton Daily News

2011

CINNAMON CHIP OATMEAL COOKIES

Submitted by Lindsay Posey of Miamisburg

Ingredients:

1 stick plus half stick unsalted butter, softened

¾ cup white sugar

1 cup packed light brown sugar

2 eggs

½ tablespoon vanilla

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 heaping teaspoons ground cinnamon

3 cups quick-cooking oats

1 cup cinnamon chips (more or less to taste)

Instructions:

1. Preheat over to 350 degrees.

2. Combine sugars.

3. Add softened butter and cream with sugars.

4. Lightly beat eggs and add to mixture, then stir in vanilla.

5. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Stir into the creamed mixture.

6.Add oats, then cinnamon chips. Stir until just combined.

7. Roll the dough into balls or use a cookie scoop and place on insulated cookie sheets. Flatten slightly with a fork or back of a spoon.

8. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.

Caption
Judging for the Dayton Daily News holiday cookie contest took place Monday Nov. 8. Judges taste-tested 71 cookie entries. These Hungarian butter cookies, baked by Jean Schaney of Miamisburg, were the first place winner.

Credit: Lisa Powell

Judging for the Dayton Daily News  holiday cookie contest took place Monday Nov. 8. Judges taste-tested 71 cookie entries. These Hungarian butter cookies, baked by Jean Schaney of Miamisburg, were the first place winner.
Caption
Judging for the Dayton Daily News holiday cookie contest took place Monday Nov. 8. Judges taste-tested 71 cookie entries. These Hungarian butter cookies, baked by Jean Schaney of Miamisburg, were the first place winner.

Credit: Lisa Powell

Credit: Lisa Powell

2010

HUNGARIAN BUTTER COOKIES

Submitted by Jean Schaney of Miamisburg

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, softened

2/3 cup sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 ½ cups flour

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon grated lemon zest

Finely chopped walnuts

Apricot preserves, such as Smucker’s

Powdered sugar

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together first two ingredients.

2. Beat into the mixture the egg and vanilla.

3. Add flour, salt and lemon zest, mix to combine. Chill dough before rolling.

4. Roll thin enough that a cookie cutter can cut the dough into 60 rounds. Use center portion of a donut cutter to cut a hole in the middle of half (30) of the rounds.

5. Bake on greased cookie sheet for 8 to 10 minutes.

6. Remove cookies from sheet. While cookies are still warm, place ½ teaspoon apricot preserves on the center of the 30 solid rounds and top each one with one of the cookie rounds that has a hole in the middle.

7. Sprinkle the center of each cookie with finely chopped walnuts and powdered sugar.

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