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Cookiemas 2022

Due to a family emergency, we had to shorten Cookiemas from 12 days down to 9.

We all know the deal — the real reason for holiday parties is cookies. We're setting out to find the best ones in 9 different categories of cookie — from snowballs to gingerbread to some more... abstract options.

We're rating each recipe based on 4 metrics:

  1. Flavor: From taste to texture, this category covers the basic experience of eating each recipe.
  2. Accessibility: Do you need to know lots of techniques or track down hard-to-find ingredients? Does it require extra equipment?
  3. Presentation: Is it a showstopper or just another plate on the table?
  4. Value: Is it worth the time and money spent to make it?

We'll both score every dish from 1-10, then average all of the scores out to calculate our final Cult Score. The highest score in each category is our winner.

Every weekday from Monday, December 12th until Tuesday, December 20th, we'll update this page with our winners to make them easy to track down.

Snowballs

Easily the most-requested category in our TikTok and Instagram comments was snowballs. They come in a ton of different varieties and twice as many names. According to legend*, all this variety descended from the Spanish shortbread cookies called "polvorónes" (which we'll get to on shortbread day, but don't typically have the requisite sugar coating that defines a snowball).

*Stella Parks, living legend

Winner: Serious Eats' Easy Mexican Wedding Cookies

I'd like to call out that everything we made was a smash except for the gluten-free option. While these weren't the most unique contender, they were delicious without being overwhelmingly sugar-y and sooooo easy to make (as long as you have a food processor).

If you want to go more exploratory, we'd recommend the pfeffernüsse or the kourabiedes — both of which had much more interesting flavors, but also took a lot more time and/or effort and we think we'd get tired of after a few cookies (maybe not the worst thing).

*Note: We've removed the gluten-free score due to what we think is an issue with the flour. We'll re-evaluate.

Peanut Butter Blossoms

It's so buckwild that everyone loves these cookies and yet the Hershey's corporation doesn't sell them unwrapped by default. Who in their right mind is eating singular Kisses?

Well, today we learned that those aren't even necessary and the best kiss is actually a coconut-chocolate ganache (which also takes less time than unwrapping the Kisses).

Winner: ATK/Cook's Country Peanut Blossom Cookies

Cook's Country had the best balance of peanut and sugar flavors (courtesy of some extra peanuts tossed in). Everything else was far too sweet to eat more than one.

We think the recipe would be improved by just using chunky peanut butter (instead of peanut butter + extra peanuts) and instead of rolling them into balls, just use a cookie scoop so you get that nice craggy, striated texture with some more crispy bits to contrast the chewy interior.

Lemon Ricotta Cookies

Full disclosure: this was the first time either of us had experienced a ricotta cookie and they are definitely top-tier. Absolutely delicious across the board.

Winner: Justine Doiron's Lemon Ricotta Cookies

In a crowd full of smashes, Justine's set themselves apart by being a better-written, easier recipe that came with an extra punch of flavor. If we could change one thing, it'd be more ricotta. The Eat Bird Food version was both gluten-free AND was noticeably more ricotta-y, which we also thought was great.

Chocolate Crinkles

We got more of an array out of this category than we expected. Everything from essentially a chocolate wedding cookie to a fudgy marshmallow. The only consistent thing was that characteristic crinkled exterior and everything else was chocolate-y chaos.

Winner: Epicurious' Chocolate Hazelnut Crinkle Cookies

Take a snowball, a brownie, and Nutella and mash em together and what you get is the Chocolate Hazelnut Crinkle Cookie. Pretty simple to throw together, but you do need to roast hazelnuts and it requires a food processor.

Sugar Cookies

We got a huge amount of requests for sugar cookies and we tried to cover as much ground as we could in a single day. These make almost no sense going up against each other, but... here we are.

Winner: NYT Gochujang Caramel Cookies

All of these were smashes, but this is the only cookie that feels like it moves the "sugar cookie conversation" forward. While the others got by on the strength of the category, this cookie is interesting in a way that we don't often see — especially during the holidays.

*Note: We've removed the gluten-free score due to what we think is an issue with the flour. We'll re-evaluate.

Gingerbread

The one. The only. The cookie that is used as construction material more often than snacking material. I suspect that by sheer volume, this is the most-produced holiday cookie in the world and yet, so rarely is it worth eating. Let's find some options that are better for eating than sheeting.

Winner: Tartine Soft Glazed Gingerbread

Tartine's known for their beautiful breads and pastries so it's no surprise that they knocked this out of the park. In our opinion, this is the absolute pinnacle of combining ginger and cookies and there's very little that would improve it.

The one thing we do think could improve it came from another contender: Sohla El Waylly's Chewy Gingerbread Cookie. Sohla incorporates fresh grated ginger into her cookie which gives it a bright, refreshing note that helps balance out all the richness that a gingerbread cookie brings

Pizzelle + Krumkake

If you've never had one of these delicate, patterned lil guys before, think of the platonic ideal of a waffle cone and you're close. They're literally wafer thin, beautiful and flavored with aromatics like vanilla, anise, or cardamom — and occasionally fruit. There are minor variations between pizzelle and krumkake, but they're essentially the exact same thing.

We buy them boxes at a time from our local Italian deli but this is our first time making them and...

Winner: Food52's Krumkake

These lovely, black cardamom-tinged waffles were our favorite of the bunch with the best combination of balanced flavor and light, crispy texture.

Honorable mention to Nordic Ware's Lemon Krumkake which were also lovely, but a bit less festive?

Snickerdoodles

It's a sugar cookie dipped in cinnamon sugar. Why does that need a different name? Who knows.

Winner: BA's Best Snickerdoodle

TBH, everything was a light smash on flavor. This one didn't necessarily have the best ideas (that'd go to Molly Yeh's Sumac Snickerdoodles), but BA pulled out the win on a technicality because Molly's recipe was frustrating to work from due to formatting and it's impossible to find freeze-dried raspberries — even in a huge city like LA.

Biscotti

Biscotti are... not really cookies, but they're similar enough (and so damn cozy) that we'll let it slide.

Winner: Serious Eats' Almond Biscotti with Anise

Somewhere along the way, we screwed up some detail of the recipe and a bunch of the fat came out in the oven. Since none of the comments on the original recipe reference this issue, we chalk this up to us being a little preoccupied with a family emergency that was happening behind the scenes. But, even though we messed up the recipe, Stella Parks' recipe for Serious Eats was the most delicious of the bunch.

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