Was it easy? Hell no. All three of the cookies in this year's contest were winners, in the sense that each earned numerous votes and counted several die-hard fans among their ranks. As a reminder, the finalists were: Runaround's Red Velvet Elvises; Saveur's Cinnamon Snaps; and Heather's Coconut and Chocolate Bullseyes.
In the end, only one cookie reigned supreme.
But let me back up. On Saturday night, my good friend Stacy hosted six families, including ours, for a gingerbread-house-and-cocktail holiday party. The kids made gingerbread houses; the adults sipped cocktails. The evening would have turned out differently had the situation been reversed.
With Stacy's permission, I brought all three varieties of cookies to the party for everyone to eat, discuss, and, ultimately, judge.
Heather Walker took top honors with her swirly, chocolaty, coconutty cookies. Divisions were fierce among the ranks, and we almost came to fisticuffs over our respective preferences. Hair was pulled, insults hurled, cookies ground in faces.
I jest. It was all in good fun, and everyone behaved.
So, Heather, you will soon be the proud owner of Jill O'Connor's new book, Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey Treats for Kids (Chronicle, 2009).
Oh! And the random raffle winner for the second copy of Jill's book is....................... Gala!
Congratulations to both winners, and thank you sincerely to everyone for playing.
Update 12/22/09: OK, due to demand in the comments, I will fulfill your holiday wishes and present you with the other finalists' recipes. Here is a link to Saveur's cinnamon snaps and here is a pdf of the Red Velvet Elvises, which Runaround was kind enough to provide in printable form. (You may want to halve the recipe for the buttercream, or you'll have plenty left over.)
Recipe for Heather's Winning Coconut and Dark Chocolate Bullseyes
These cookies are pretty, chocolaty, coconutty, and can be made in advance. In fact, keep in mind that the dough needs to chill overnight. I made a few very slight modifications to Heather's instructions simply to provide clarity. (N.B. This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart.)
Makes 3 dozen cookies
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut
6 ounces dark or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
Cream 8 tablespoons butter and all of sugar until light and fluffy. (This will take about 5 minutes on medium high speed with an electric mixer.) Add egg and vanilla and beat until fluffy.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture and beat on low until combined. Add coconut and beat until combined.
Place dough between 2 pieces of parchment and roll into a 10 x 15-inch rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. (I actually drew the dimensions of the rectangle on the bottom sheet of parchment to guide me.) Transfer parchment-dough package to a baking sheet and chill for at least one hour or up to one day.
Place chocolate and remaining tablespoon of butter in the top of a double boiler. Melt completely, about 2 minutes, and remove from heat. Stir in the condensed milk. Let sit until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
Remove dough from refrigerator and peel off top layer of parchment. Using an offset spatula, spread melted chocolate mixture over the dough. Using the bottom piece of the parchment for support, roll the dough into a log. (You may want to place the parchment on a towel to minimize slipping. You're going to roll this like sushi, using the paper to keep a tight roll as you go.) Wrap the log in plastic wrap and chill overnight.
Heat oven to 350. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Remove plastic wrap from log and slice the dough into ¼ inch thick rounds. Place on baking sheets approximately 1 ½ inches apart. Bake until pale golden brown on edges, 8 -10 minutes. (Mine took 12-14 minutes.) Move cookies to cooling rack. Store cookies in an airtight container for 2 weeks.