Christmas Cookies

Alabama Living Magazine

Food styling and photos: Brooke Echols

Yes, it was a tough job, but our cookie judges were up to the task! Out of more than a dozen top recipes baked by our staff, three of our readers’ cookie recipes took the top prizes of $100, $75 and $50. Each winner will also receive a copy of our new book, The Best of Hardy Jackson’s Alabama. Enjoy making these winning cookies, and if there are any left, put some out for Santa this Christmas Eve!

First Place
Sara Jean Brooklere, Baldwin EMC

Sara Jean Brooklere makes her famous White Chocolate Cookies/Candy every year, with good reason. It’s so popular she has to make one for her church and another for family: “I have to make two batches,” she says, which is quite a few candies (one recipe makes 10 dozen). The recipe itself is “old, old, old,” and she credits her friend Mary Pat Smith for its origin many years ago. “I liked it so much I put it in my own cookbook and gave her credit.”  Sara Jean compiled several of her favorite recipes in a cookbook and gave copies as gifts to her family. “You would have thought I gave my children a million dollars.” While her friend melts her white chocolate in a double boiler, Sara Jean melts hers in a microwave, which she finds easier. She uses two teaspoons to spoon up the batter into balls for cooling. “It’s really easy,” she adds. It’s also easy to eat, as our Alabama Living contest judges can attest.

White Chocolate Cookies

  • 2 pounds white chocolate bark
  • 1 cup chunky peanut butter
  • 3 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 3 cups Rice Krispies
  • 1 cup dry roasted peanuts

Melt white chocolate bark over low heat, stirring constantly. Add chunky peanut butter, Rice Krispies cereal, peanuts and marshmallows. Mix well. Drop by teaspoonful onto waxed paper. Let cool. Store in plastic container. Can be frozen until ready to use at a later time. Yield: approximately 10 dozen.

Second Place
Bonnie Verbrigghe, North Alabama EC

Bonnie Verbrigghe has been making her Mocha Pecan Balls for so many years she’s lost track of where she first saw the recipe, but she believes it originated on a recipe card included in a box of Quaker Oats possibly in the mid-1990s. The original recipe called for regular size chocolate chips, but Bonnie switched those to mini chocolate chips, as “the others were so big.” Once she didn’t have the mini-size chips on hand and tried to break up the regular size chips in a food processor, which didn’t work out too well. A couple of the other ingredients, such as the Instant Roma (a roasted grain beverage, although we used instant coffee) and the pecan meal (we used pecan flour) might require a trip to a health foods store. The pecan meal is “a little more chunky,” she adds. Bonnie says she makes the pecan balls all year round, as “my family dearly loves them.” For her 50-year wedding anniversary celebration, she made a double batch of 15 dozen. “I have shared it around for years,” she says, and is now glad to be sharing the recipe with our readers.

Mocha Pecan Balls

  • ½ cup oleo
  • 2¾ cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Instant Roma or instant coffee
  • ¼ cup boiling water
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups oats (either kind)
  • 1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup pecan meal

Beat oleo and sugar until light and fluffy. Dissolve Roma in water, blend Roma and salt into oleo mixture. Stir in oats, chocolate pieces and ½ cup pecan meal. Chill at least 30 minutes. Form 1-inch balls and roll in remaining pecan meal. Refrigerate.

Third Place
Robin Williams, Baldwin EMC

The key to her fluffy meringue cookies, says Robin Williams, is the humidity outside. As with any recipe calling for beaten egg whites, her Chocolate Cloud Cookies do much better if the humidity is low.  “The egg whites will beat and get stiff, but the (high) humidity can make them fall,” she says. “The less humidity there is, the fluffier they will be.”  Living in Bay Minette, she is used to humid days, but she hasn’t let that deter her from making the cookies every Christmas for at least the past 25 years, since her daughter was two. The addition of cocoa and chocolate chips makes for an extra-delicious cookie, and each batch “always looks a little bit different, depending on the humidity,” she says. She learned the art of baking and candy making from her grandmothers and mother and loves that she still has her grandmother’s 40-year-old old KitchenAid mixer. “This recipe has been a part of my family for so long,” Robin says. “I’m happy I can share it with others.”

Robin’s Chocolate Cloud Cookies

  • 3 egg whites, room temperature
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (12 ounce package)

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper or foil. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar in large bowl at high speed with electric mixer until soft peaks 

form. Gradually add sugar and vanilla, beating well after each addition until stiff peaks hold, sugar is dissolved and mixture is glossy. Using a sifter, sift cocoa onto egg white mixture. Gently fold with a rubber spatula just until combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Drop by heaping tablespoons onto prepared cookie sheet. Bake 35 to 45 minutes or just until dry. Cool slightly, then peel paper from the cookies and finish cooling them on cooling racks. Store covered at room temperature.

Buttered Home

It is my favorite time of year! Time for Alabama Living’s Cookie contest! These cookies were all such a delight to judge, I honestly wanted them all to win! Christmas is a special time and making cookies with our loved ones is a part of the holiday traditions for many. We have a great recipe to add to yours: Old Fashioned Tea Cakes. This recipe is well over 100 years old and has been handed down for many generations. Made with simple ingredients like butter, flour and buttermilk, these tea cakes are a bite of days gone by. For more recipes like this, head over to

Old Fashioned Tea Cakes

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tablespoon buttermilk
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

In a mixer, cream butter until it is smooth. Gradually add in sugar and mix well.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one. Add buttermilk and mix well.

Sift flour and baking soda and add in batches to creamed mixture. Mix well. Stir in vanilla. Place cookie dough on a sheet of plastic wrap and seal. Press dough into a disc and store in the refrigerator for 2 hours to overnight.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and unwrap and divide dough into two sections. Roll dough out to ¼ inch thickness and cut with your choice of cutter. Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Allow to cool. Serve and enjoy!


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