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<="" span="">"I feel I honor her memory every time I make (the cookies)," said Norris, voted the first-place winner of the Kenosha News Holiday Cookie Contest. A retired registered nurse, Norris, 66, noted that her mother was a passionate baker. "Anyone who stopped by our house always left with a baggie of cookies or sometimes an entire tray," Norris wrote in her recipe submission for the contest. "Friends would actually ask (my mother) to do their holiday baking provided they bought the butter."
Norris now makes these and other holiday cookie family favorites with her three adult daughters and six grandchildren. They make the Miniature Kolaches for holidays and special occasions because the process is "a little putsy," noted Norris. "My teenage grand-daughters have perfected the technique of 'roll, fill, fold, crimp' needed to make these delicious cookies," Norris says. Kolaches -- a white sweet dough filled with fruit preserves -- are of Central European origin. Searches for kolaches in cookbooks and online reveal varying ways to spell the treat's name, including "kolache," "kolach," "kolace" -- forgive us if our spelling differs from your family's. Norris' mother began making them because her ancestry is Lithuanian, she said. The recipe calls for either apricot or prune filling, Norris said. "We used to get the (pre-made) filling from Hrupka's," Norris said, of a butcher shop formerly on Sixth Avenue near 50th Street. The version she submitted suggests obtaining the filling from Paielli's bakery, 6020 39th Ave.
Kathy Norris:Miniature Kolaches (first place)
BY HEATHER LARSON POYNER
Makes about 8 dozen
Ingredients:8 ounces butter, softened8 ounces cream cheese, softened2 cups all-purpose flour1½ pounds apricot or prune fillingPowdered sugar Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine butter, cream cheese and flour. Shape into two balls. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Roll out dough on well-floured board and cut into 2-inch circles using a drinking glass or round cookie cutter. Put about one teaspoon of filling in the center of each circle. Fold over and crimp edges with a fork to seal. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. When cool, sprinkle with powered sugar.
Experiencing holiday baking with two sets of Italian grandmothers provided lifelong inspiration for Lori Trecroci, holiday cookie contest finalist. Trecroci’s genetti, a soft Italian cake-like cookie, were another second place winner.
“I have been a baker since I was in elementary school,” said Trecroci, 43.The lifelong Kenosha resident recalls helping make trays of cookies with her grandmothers Francis Trecroci and Concetta Fasci every Christmas Eve. For the past seven years, Trecroci has been a baker at the Bent Fork Bakery in Highwood, Ill.“I was a stay-at-home mom for a long time, and when I needed to go back to work I chose a field I loved,” she said.Trecroci submitted the genetti recipe because “they are a great holiday cookie,” she said. “They have the flavor and texture of celebration.” She also said they are easy to make.“The most time consuming thing is frosting them,” she said.The recipe is also very versatile, said Trecroci.“You can change up the flavors and colors of the dough or the glaze,” she said. “For example, I might make a pink cookie with an almond glaze or a vanilla cookie with coconut glaze.”Entering her recipe for the contest, Trecroci wrote, “(To me) Christmas represents memories; memories of being a kid and of great Italian food and desserts.”
Lori Trecroci: Genetti (second place)
Makes about 8 dozen
1½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup melted butter
½ cup milk
6 cups flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
Frosting2 cups powdered sugar
4 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon almond, anise, or vanilla extract
Food coloring (optional)
Sprinkles, colored sugar, chopped nuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In medium-sized bowl, whisk flour and baking powder and set aside. In a larger mixing bowl, with a mixer on medium speed, beat eggs and sugar until thick and lemon-colored. Add vanilla and almond extracts, cooled melted butter, and milk. Beat on low until combined. Continuing with mixer on low, slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients a little at a time, until thoroughly blended. When dough gets too stiff to use mixer, work in rest of flour by hand. Dough should be soft but firm enough to roll into a ball.
Take bits of dough and roll into walnut-size balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake about 10 minutes. Cookies should still be light in color and slide easily off pan when done. Cool completely on a rack.
For frosting, combine powdered sugar and milk in a medium bowl. Add choice of flavoring extracts. Mix until smooth and add food coloring if desired. Frosting should be smooth and run off the spoon like a glaze. Take cooled cookies and individually dip tops into frosting. Sprinkles, colored sugars,nuts or other toppings can be added while frosting is still wet. Cookies can also be left plain. Set on rack to dry completely. Store in airtight container.
Second-place winner Donna Juzwik found a way to have her cake and cookies too. The secret to her almond chocolate biscotti is cake mix, she said.“I love these cookies, but they’re usually too much work,” Juzwik said.An Italian twice-baked cookie, biscotti can be labor intensive. Juzwik, 62, of Kenosha, says she found a shortcut recipe about ten years ago in Quick Cooking magazine, part of the Taste of Home series. It has become a family favorite, and one she makes for special occasions.Juzwik modified the recipe so the finished cookies would be smaller than the usual biscotti. Dividing the uncooked dough into smaller logs makes the finished cookies smaller.“Children like to dip their cookies,” she said. Smaller portions also allow holiday cookie snackers the luxury of sampling more cookies at a time, she said.Another reason to use a shortcut is to make lots of holiday cookie types, said Juzwik.With three adult children each wanting at least two of their favorite cookies, requests add up, she said. “I start out making about ten different kinds but may end up making 12 or 14,” she said.“I like cooking from scratch but this recipe is so easy I can make more cookies,” she added.A retired Kenosha County Courthouse employee, Juzwik has more time now to bake and give homemade cookies as holiday gifts.“I like to try one new recipe a year,” she said.
Donna Juzwik: Almond Chocolate Biscotti (second place)
Almond Chocolate Biscotti
Makes about 6 dozen
Ingredients1 package (18.25 ounces) chocolate cake mix1 cup flour½ cup butter or margarine, melted¼ cup chocolate syrup2 eggs1 teaspoon vanilla extract½ teaspoon almond extract½ cup slivered almonds½ cup miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips1 small package vanilla or white chocolate chips2 tablespoons shortening
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large bowl, combine dry cake mix and the next six ingredients. Mix well. Stir in almonds and semi-sweet chocolate chips. Divide dough into four equal parts. On ungreased cookie sheet, shape two portions into 10-inch logs. Repeat with portions on second cookie sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until firm to the touch. Cool on pans for 15 minutes.Transfer to cutting board. Carefully cut diagonally into half-inch slices using a serrated knife. Place cut side down on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until firm. Remove to wire racks to cool.Melt vanilla or white chips and shortening in microwave. Drizzle over biscotti. Let stand until hardened. Store in airtight container.
Hungarian nut sticks have been a winner more than once for Janet Eppers, of Beach Park, Ill.A few years ago they took first prize at the Lake County Fair and most recently were one of three second-place finalists in the Kenosha News Holiday Cookie Contest.Eppers said she began making the recipe shortly after seeing it in a Ladies Home Journal Dessert Cookbook she received as a wedding shower gift in 1966.“The cookbook was from a lady who never baked a day in her life,” Eppers said.Although she is not a resident of Kenosha County, she says she enjoys participating in Kenosha community activities and reading the Kenosha News. “It isn’t delivered here but I go get it every day,” she said.Born on a farm in Lake County, Eppers, 65, is an avid county fair entrant.“I haven’t missed a county fair in my life,” said Eppers, who has worked for the Lake County Farm Bureau as a classroom presenter since retiring from Abbott Laboratories in the early 2000s.As for her Hungarian nut sticks, Eppers does not know how the recipe got its name as the cookbook’s editors did not provide background details for each recipe.
Janet Eppers: Hungarian Nut Sticks (second place)
Makes about 4 dozen strips or sticks
1 cup butter
½ cup sugar
2¼ cups flour
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2¼ cups finely chopped pecans
1 cup sugar
1½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup egg whites
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cookie dough: Cream the butter and sugar thoroughly. Add the egg and beat well. Sift the flour and salt together and add to butter a little at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Add vanilla extract. Spread dough evenly in a 15½ x 10½ x 1-inch pan. Bake for 15 minutes.
Pecan topping: Mix the pecans, sugar, cinnamon and egg whites in a heavy saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and stir constantly until the mixture thickens and comes away from the sides of the saucepan. Do not overcook.
Spread the hot topping evenly over the baked cookie dough. Bake for 15 more mintues. Cool slightly and cut into strips.