PEOPLE’S CHOICE

Maine Macaroon Mountains by Karen Watterson, Yarmouth

These popular cookies are the product of a blended family. Macaroons are a traditional Jewish dessert (Watterson’s family is Jewish), but dressing them up like snow-capped mountains makes them a perfect Christmas cookie (her husband’s side).

Watterson, a 53-year-old bookseller who writes the food blog Mignardise, said the cookies can be made in advance, frozen and baked off as you want.

“You have to plan, because they have to be in the freezer for several hours before you bake them,” she said. “I think that’s how you get the crispy shell on the outside and the moistness on the inside.”

Makes 4 dozen

91/4 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)

41/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)

5 egg whites

8 ounces sugar (about 1 cup plus 21/2 tablespoons)

1 tablespoon vanilla

14-oz. package sweetened, shredded coconut

8 ounces good quality white chocolate

Sprinkles, or similar edible decorations

Combine the semisweet and unsweetened chocolates in a large metal or glass bowl, or top of a double boiler. Place the bowl over a saucepan with about 1 inch of barely simmering water (don’t let the bottom of the bowl touch the water).

Melt the chocolate, stirring frequently. Remove bowl from over the water and set aside, allowing it to cool slightly.

In a large clean bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy. Slowly add the sugar and keep beating until the mixture has the consistency of melted marshmallow. Using a firm rubber spatula, mix in the vanilla, melted chocolate and coconut until well combined. The dough will be thick.

Line several cookie sheets with parchment paper (or use a Silpat). Make sure the sheets will fit in your freezer.*

Using wet hands, form dough into balls, about 11/2 tablespoons each. Pinch each ball gently to create a slightly tapered shape. Place on prepared cookie sheet, and repeat until all the dough has been used.

Place the cookie sheet in freezer for at least 2 hours, or until cookies are frozen and firm.**

When you’re ready to bake, heat the oven to 350.

Bake the frozen macaroons for 16 to 20 minutes, until the outsides have developed a thin crust and the tops look dry and set. Slide the parchment paper, with macaroons on it, off the cookie sheet and onto a wire rack to cool.

When cookies have cooled completely, they are ready to be dipped.

Melt the white chocolate in a shallow bowl. Dip the top of each cookie into the white chocolate, letting excess drip off. Place back on rack, and allow chocolate to dry completely. Sprinkle with edible decorations.

* Watterson says, “I couldn’t possibly fit all those cookie sheets in my freezer, so I ended up placing balls of cookies on plates, and putting those in the freezer. When it was time to bake them, I just transferred them to cookie sheets.”

** Once the cookies are frozen, you can store them in the freezer for up to three months, in a plastic freezer bag or container.

 

FINALIST

Christmas Stars, by Valerie Stone, Falmouth

As a child, Stone and her siblings would travel from Delaware to Vermont to spend the holidays with her “Mum.” One of the highlights of the trip was always her grandmother’s Christmas Stars, which Stone describes as “filled with soft light meringue, delicate lemon oil and ambrosial chewy insides.”

“She made them every year,” said Stone, who is a 54-year-old fiber artist. “She was an artist, so she just somehow had an understanding of what would be the right combination to make something taste good.”

Before she died, Stone’s grandmother gave her 16 grandchildren a folder of her best recipes. Christmas Stars was at the top.

Makes about 2 dozen

6 egg whites

1 pound of sugar (2 cups)

1 tablespoon cinnamon

Zest of 1 lemon

1 pound of ground almonds (21/2 cups)

Preheat oven to 350.

Beat egg whites until stiff, add sugar and cinnamon. Beat 5 minutes more.

Remove 1 cup of egg white mixture. Set aside.

Add almonds and lemon zest to remaining egg white mixture.

Roll into 1/2-inch slabs (Stone does this in small sections and adds flour to the board and mixture to make neat slabs for cutting.) Cut into star shapes.

Use teaspoon to top with reserved egg mixture with teaspoon.

Bake at 350 until lightly brown.

 

FINALIST

Auntie Anna’s Sugar Cookies with Orange Frosting by Donna Speirs, Kennebunk

Speirs, 63, came to the cookie contest sporting a special totem on her finger: her Auntie Anna’s ring. This recipe has been a tradition in Spiers’ family for more than 75 years. About 35 years ago, Spiers took over the tradition.

Who was Auntie Anna? “She was my godmother,” Speirs said. “I was very, very close to her. As a matter of fact, I wore her ring for good luck.” No one knows the exact origin of the recipe, which adds sour cream and orange kick to otherwise “boring” sugar cookies.

“When (Auntie Anna) was in her 20s, she went to Lake George and was a nanny for a family, and that’s when she came home with the recipe,” Speirs said. “My cousin doesn’t know if it was their recipe or if it was something she brought to them. Whatever it is, it’s something that’s been around a very, very long time.”

Speirs hosted cookie-making parties when she was growing up, using this recipe. Today, she always makes them at Christmas, but sometimes at Valentine’s or Easter, too.

“I have a brother in Florida,” Speirs said, “and that’s all he wanted for Christmas. ‘Don’t send me any presents, Donna, just cookies.’ ”

Makes about 100 cookies

4 cups flour

1 teapoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teapoon nutmeg

1 cup soft butter

11/2 cups sugar

1 egg

1/2 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Sift flour with baking powder, soda, salt and nutmeg. Set aside.

Beat butter, sugar and egg until light and fluffy.

At low speed on electric mixer, beat in sour cream and vanilla until smooth.

Gradually add flour mixture, beating until well combined.

With rubber scraper, form dough into a ball.

Wrap in plastic wrap or waxed paper, refrigerate several hours or overnight.

Divide dough into 4 parts. Refrigerate until ready to roll out.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375F degrees. Lightly grease cookie sheets, or use parchment paper or a Silpat.

On well floured surface, roll dough, one part at a time, 1/4-inch thick.

With floured cookie cutter, cut cookies. Place 2 inches apart on cookie sheets.

Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden. Remove to wire rack, cool. Frost and sprinkle.

Frosting:

1 box (1 lb.) powdered sugar, sifted

11/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened

Grated rind of 1 orange

Fresh squeezed juice from 1 orange

Cream butter in electric mixer, add powdered sugar, orange rind and orange juice.

Frost cookies and decorate with your favorite sprinkles, chopped nuts, etc.