Winners share top recipes from 2017 Holiday Cookie Bakeoff

Pictured from left are 2017 Holiday Cookie Bakeoff finalist Julie Girard, winner Cindy Velline and finalist Louise Hanson.

The Lawrence Journal-World presents the top three contestants in this year’s Holiday Cookie BakeOff, presented by the Journal-World, Checkers and Eileen’s Colossal Cookies.

By popular vote, Cindy Velline’s Chocolate Wows were announced as the winner of the contest at Nov. 18’s Holiday Shopping Festival, benefiting the Lawrence Humane Society. Her cookie recipe, as well as those of the top two finalists, are below. All cookies for the contest were baked by Eileen’s.

WINNER: Cindy Velline

Started baking when (age): I started baking when I was 10 years old and received the “Betty Crocker’s Cookbook for Boys and Girls” for Christmas

Favorite item to bake: Cookies!

Best baking memory: My mother was a great influence on my love of baking. For virtually every holiday, she made cut out cookies and my job was to decorate them.

Holiday Cookie Bakeoff winner Cindy Velline shows off her Chocolate Wows.

Best baking tip: Use pure extracts

Advice to new bakers: Don’t over bake your cookies! Check them at the minimum time.

Cindy’s recipe

Chocolate Wows


1/3 cup flour

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Holiday Cookie Bakeoff finalist Julie Girard is pictured with her Snowflake Crunch Cookies.

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup butter

2 large eggs

Holiday Cookie Bakeoff finalist Louise Hanson shows off her Yuletide Pepper Pot Cookies.

3/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups pecans, chopped

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or 1 cup milk chocolate chips


Pre-heat even to 325 degrees.

Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In small bowl combine flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt.

In heavy saucepan melt chocolate and butter over low heat stirring until smooth.

Remove from heat and cool.

In large bowl beat at medium speed, eggs and sugar until light and lemony colored, about 2 minutes.

Reduce to low speed and add cooled chocolate mixture, flour mixture and vanilla.

Beat just until blended.

Increase speed to medium and beat 2 minutes.

With wooden spoon, stir in pecans and chips.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls 2-inches apart on cookie sheets.

With back of spoon, spread batter into 2 inch rounds.

Bake until tops are shiny and cracked, about 13 minutes.

If doing 2 sheets at once, rotate between racks at about 6 minutes.

Cool 10 minutes on sheet then transfer to rack to cool totally.

Story behind the cookie

My sister-in-law shared this recipe with me several years ago. We always host a Christmas open house and keep on the lookout for new recipes each year.

FINALIST: Julie Girard

Started baking when (age): Probably around 2 or 3. Standing on a kitchen chair cracking eggs and stirring dough for my mother.

Favorite item to bake: Birthday cakes for my friends or family. I’m not a great decorator, but I like to whip up Cookies & Cream Cake with crushed Oreos, Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake with a fudge drizzle or Boston Crème Cake with shiny ganache.

Best baking memory: My maternal grandmother was the very best cookie baker. She made small, perfect bites from heaven and packaged them stacked in Pringles cans decorated with patterned shelf liner. She always had a can of each grandchild’s favorite cookies ready to go. I miss those Snickerdoodles dearly.

Best baking tip: Use all of your senses when you are baking. As you bake more and more, you will be able to tell when your dough or batter looks and feels right. On more than one occasion, I’m heading to the kitchen to check the oven a split second before my timer goes off, because I can smell the moment something is ready to come out. And tasting is the best part!

Advice to new bakers: Don’t be scared! The more often you bake, the more confident you will feel in the kitchen. I bake 3-4 times per week; practice really does make perfect.

Julie’s recipe

Snowflake Crunch Cookies


1 cup shortening

1 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup peanut butter

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups rolled oats

1 1/4 cups corn flakes

1 cup Nestle Holiday red & green baking morsels

1 cup chopped pecans


Cream together the first 6 ingredients. Sift flour, soda, baking powder and salt together. Add to creamed mixture. Stir in oats, corn flakes, chocolate chips and nuts. Drop by heaping tablespoon onto greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until edges are golden brown.

Story behind the cookie

We love plain old chocolate chip cookies, but like them even better when they are jazzed up a bit for the holidays. The corn flakes are the star of this cookie with a surprising texture and pleasing crunch.

FINALIST: Louise Hanson

Started baking when (age): 11

Favorite item to bake: fruit tarts (especially French)

Best baking memory: I once baked a three-tiered wedding cake that resembled the leaning tower of Pisa. (Not intended!)

Best baking tip: Have all ingredients at hand and measure carefully.

Advice to new bakers: 1.) Keep it simple. 2.) Understand the techniques called for in a recipe. For example, if the recipe asks you to “fold in” beaten egg whites, it is important to know how you do that. It’s useful these days to watch a video of an unfamiliar technique on YouTube if your Grandma is not available. 3.) Enjoy successes and learn from mistakes.   

Louise’s recipe

Yuletide Pepper Pot Cookies

Ingredients for cookies:

1 1/2 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cup white sugar

1 block (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

2 whole eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 jar each red and green jalapeno pepper jelly

2 cups finely chopped roasted/salted pistachio nuts

Ingredients for glaze:

2 ounces softened cream cheese

1 1/2 teaspoons butter

3 tablespoons milk

2-3 tablespoons powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla


In a large bowl, cream butter, white sugar, and cream cheese until smooth.

Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in vanilla.

Mix together flour and baking powder; stir into the cream cheese mixture until just combined. Cover and chill the dough until firm, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Set rack to middle of oven.

Roll tablespoonful of dough into balls.

Roll in chopped pistachio nuts.

Place them 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Using your thumb, make an indentation in the center of each ball and fill with 1/2 teaspoon of the red or green hot pepper jelly.

Bake for 15 minutes or until the edges are slightly brown. Cool cookies on the baking sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Drizzle graze over cooled cookies.

Store in airtight container. Freezes well.

Directions for glaze:

With an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, butter, and milk.

Gradually beat in the powdered sugar.

Beat in vanilla.

Story behind the cookie

I thought it would be fun to create a holiday cookie that is a little different. So I came up with one that is at the same time sweet, salty, spicy hot and colorful. Happy munching!