Originally Published: November 23, 2011 12:34 p.m.
First Place: Lyn Uniacke, Chunky Chocolate Toffee CookiesIngredients:1 cup unsalted butter, softened1 cup firmly packed brown sugar1/2 cup sugar2 large eggs1 Tbsp. vanilla extract2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour1 1/2 tsp. baking powder1/2 tsp. baking soda1/2 tsp. salt5 bars (1.4 ounces each) English toffee candy, chopped1 package (10 ounces) semisweet chocolate chunks1 package (10 ounces) white chocolate chunks1 cup toasted, chopped pecans1 cup toasted, chopped almondsDirections:Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add both sugars, beating well. Add eggs and vanilla, then beat well.Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, stirring well. Add to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until blended. Stir in toffee candy, both chocolate chunks and both nuts.Drop dough by heaping tablespoonfuls 1 1/2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350˚ for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool slightly on baking sheets; remove to wire racks to cool completely.Servings: Makes 4 1/2 DozenSecond Place: Jane Bais, Holiday Cherry Cheese BarsCrust:1 cup walnuts, divided1 1/4 cups flour1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar1/2 cup Butter Flavor Crisco1/2 cup coconutFilling:2 packages cream cheese2/3 cup sugar2 eggs2 tsp. vanilla1 can (21 oz.) cherry pie fillingDirections:Heat oven to 350 degreesGrease 13x9 pan with Butter Flavor CriscoChop 1/2 cup nuts coarsely for topping; 1/2 cup finelyCrust: Combine flour and brown sugar. Cut in Crisco until fine crumbles form. Add 1/2 cup finely chopped nuts and coconut. Mix well. Remove 1/2 cup - set aside. Press remaining crumbs in bottom of pan. Bake at 350˚ for 12 to 15 minutes.Filling: Beat cream cheese, sugar, eggs and vanilla until smooth. Spread over hot baked crust. Return to oven. Bake 15 more minutes.Spread cherry pie filling over cheese layer. Combine coarsely chopped nuts and crumb mixture. Sprinkle evenly over cherries.Return to oven. Bake 15 minutes longer. Cool. Refrigerate several hours. Cut into bars.Servings: Makes 24 BarsThird Place: Christine Giambanco2 egg whites7 ounces almond paste1/2 cup confectioners' sugar1/2 cup granulated sugar1/4 cup flour1 pinch salt1 1/4 cups pine nuts (pignoli)Beat egg whites with a mixer until foamy. Add almond paste and beat until crumbly.Increase speed to medium-high and beat 2 1/2 minutes, scrapingoccasionally. Mixture will look grainy.Add sugars and beat on medium speed for one minute - mixture will becreamy.Add flour and salt. Beat until blended.Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour or until dough isfirm enough to shape.Grease cookie sheet and preheat oven to 350.Pour pine nuts into a pie plate.Dip hands in water, then shape dough by level teaspoon into 1" balls.Roll balls in pine nuts and place on cookie sheet 2" apart.Bake 15-18 minutes or until lightly browned.Cool on wire racks.This recipe was passed down to me by my Nona ("grandma" in Italian) Rose. Every year around Christmas time my grandma would take my sister and I for the weekend to her home in Brooklyn, New York and we would bake cookies for the holidays. Those are my most cherished memories with my Nona. Although she is no longer with us, I keep her memories and traditions alive by baking these cookies with my children for the holidays.