Two important introductions today, the first is a contest, a Holiday Cookie Challenge (more about Gourmet’s newly published book below).  And the second is an introduction to a culinary colleague who has begun helping me out, keeping me organized, preventing my brain from exploding all over my computer screen.  Emilia Juocys (pronounced YO-chess, Lithuanian background), graduated from Schoolcraft College’s culinary arts program and proved so valuable in helping Brian Polcyn (her former chef instructor at Schoolcraft) and me with the new Salumi book that I’ve asked her to spend part of her work week helping me.  While Ratio has gone a long way in making me understand the baking kitchen, I’m still a savory guy at heart, but I’m thrilled to introduce Emilia’s love of cookies and her challenge to bakers with this cookie contest.


by Emilia Juocys

Gourmet was my favorite food magazine. It had great recipes, phenomenal photography, and amazing writing.  I’m still sad it’s gone. For me November was a magical month not because of thanksgiving or black Friday.  It was the month the Gourmet December came out.  And the December issue always featured holiday cookies—perfectly baked, assembled, decorated, and photographed cookies.  They sat on the page waiting for you to grab them; so scrumptious, so beautiful, tempting any baker or cookie maker to their holiday cookie list. I waited for days for the magazine to drop in the bookstore or to arrive on my doorstep.  Christmas would never be the same in the kitchen without it.

The Gourmet holiday cookie magazine ran from 1996-2007, for me the formative years of my culinary existence.  The December issues were always hidden amongst the marquee cookbooks, that became part of my cookie arsenal.  When I finally attended culinary school I realized that cookies and I had a bond.  They made sense.  Something about the butter, the sugar, and the creaming—I just had it; I don’t know what, but I did.  I’m a savory cook but it’s an honor when my restaurant calls me in to pinch hit for cookie production.  I am the cookie consultant.  I. Love. Cookies.

When Michael asked me what ideas I had for the blog my first thought was Holiday Cookies because I miss Gourmet’s cookie issue.  Last week, as we were planning this post, Michael received an email from Christina at Houghton Mifflin telling him about two new titles they were bringing out.  One was the above The Gourmet Cookie Book.   Serendipity.  I am excited to be a part of what I hope will be an annual Ruhlman Holiday Cookie Challenge.  See categories and instructions below.  All winners will receive a copy of The Gourmet Cookie Book and a signed copy of Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking.  Good luck and good baking.


The cookie season is coming upon us quickly.  We need all cookie bakers, pastry chefs, and rolling pin wielders to submit your favorite recipes. While we believe that there’s no such thing as an original recipe, we do ask that recipes be yours and if they are yours but tweaked from existing ones, that you give full credit to a book, person or blog from which you took your inspiration.

Here are the goals, categories, instructions and rules:

The Goals Are:

  • To win! (goal for you that is)
  • To share cool cookie recipes (and links and blogs)
  • And, if it works, to create over time an online collection of excellent holiday cookie recipes

The Categories Are:

  • Drop Cookies
  • Cutout or Rolled Cookies
  • Inventive Cookies

Send To Us By E-Mail with “Cookie Contest” in Header:

  • Your name, city, and contact info if different from email
  • Picture of your cookies (not graded on quality, but we may ask to use it if it’s excellent)
  • Cookie Recipe with yield (Imperial or metric measurement are both fine)
  • Why your cookie is a holiday favorite (50 words or less)
  • All material should be mailed to Emilia:


  • Contestants can only enter one recipe in each category
  • Submission are only permitted via email
  • If “cookie contest” is not in header we cannot guarantee inclusion in the contest
  • Photos, contact info, and recipe must all be received by 12AM Eastern Time on November 28th to be reviewed for the challenge
  • The exact recipe cannot have been published (book, magazine, newspaper, internet) by someone other than you
  • By sending a recipe, you are consenting to allow to publish your cookie recipe if it wins (with full attribution and any desired links you wish, of course)


  • All cookies will be evaluated first by their written recipe and cookie support statement.
  • Cookie judging will be done by Michael, Emilia, Michael’s lead recipe tester, Marlene Newell, and her trusted testers at
  • Cookies making it past part 1 will then be tested in home kitchens and scored on a 1 to 5 scale in these areas: Taste, Texture, Appearance, Festive Nature or Holiday-ness, and Replicability (they should be accessible to all cooks, regardless of skill level).

In addition to publishing the winning recipes, we will also publish links to all the recipes we love if you have posted them on your blog.  Again, winners will receive the Gourmet book, my book Ratio, and, of course, everlasting glory.

Questions?  Leave them in comments and Emilia or I will answer.


33 Wonderful responses to “Holiday Cookie Challenge”

  • Rhonda

    Can’t wait for the results!

    I’m out because I think the judging panel is — how do I say this… Perhaps, too mature — to find not only the ingredients in a recipe magical but the premise of Christmas Cookies themselves.

    I think having a Ruhlman on the panel is an excellent idea. However, it should be James and perhaps a panel of his friends.

    Judges should be 12 years old and under. 🙂


  • Paula

    Fantastic!!! this is going to be fun. Emilia I also miss Gourmet terribly, especially this time of year. The Oct., Nov., and Dec. issues were must haves.

  • Rachelino

    Emilia, you are a girl after my own heart – I loved the Gourmet cookie issue every year, and have kept several, so it’s great they were compiled into a book.
    I love cookies because they were the first thing I baked on my own. And I haven’t stopped baking since. I will get cracking, and enter a cookie recipe, but it would be really hard to beat Gourmet’s pick from 2006 – Pistachio Cranberry Icebox Cookies. It’s rare to have something so easy to make have such great flavor, texture and a pulled together presentation. Make these!
    OK, cookie commercial over.

    • cheryl k

      Thanks for this link! I love cranberries and try to find as many ways to use them as I can. I live for cranberry season, I am so making these this weekend!

  • Derek

    This sounds like a lot of fun. My family has a great chocolate chip cookie recipe that I have tweaked. It’s a great recipe, but I don’t think the cookies are particularly festive or holiday-related. Not sure if they would fit into this particular contest.

  • Majid

    Emilia this is so cool that your doing this and writing blogs on here. I’m so excited for you!

    • emilia

      Thanks. I am glad to be a part of the Ruhlman Team. I will see you next week at Schoolcraft.

  • Susan

    I can’t wait to see the results. I’m always looking for new ideas for holiday cookies.

  • Jodi

    For real cookie inspiration, check out my feature in last Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle. If you aren’t already throwing a holiday cookie exchange, now is the time to make it happen! Can’t wait to see all the recipes up here-perfect inspiration for the event. Enjoy! Jodi

  • Charlotte

    Oh lordy — memories of my first job out of college — Gourmet’s Best Desserts. From xeroxing every dessert recipe out of the archives to long long evenings proofreading recipes it was quite an experience.

    • emilia

      Good to see you here Chef. I think the students will like this challenge and the book is great. I hope to see a raw cookie recipe from you.

  • ruhlman

    To answer a couple questions, we will add bar cookies to the rolled/cut out category, but we’d like to keep them cookies rather than cakes, so yes if it’s shortbread, no if it’s brownie. You can submit anything to the inventive category and take your chances. Just remember, this is a cookie contest.

    And thanks Chef Gabriel!

  • Decor Girl

    Excellent idea! Holiday cookies are the best. Actually I love (crave cookies) most anytime of the year. I’ll try to whip something up with pics – of course mine are the roll and decorate kind.

  • emilia

    What a great start to the Holiday Cookie Challenge! I agree with Paula about missing Gourmet holiday issues from Oct-Dec, they were the highlights of the year.
    Cookies are great anytime of the year. They are a great pick me up and always bring a smile to someone’s face. I can not wait to see what people have to share with us.

  • Jenee Libby

    I am SO doing this! Can’t wait to get started, it’s about time my Momma’s stupendous Christmas cookies got some exposure 😀

  • Marlene

    I don’t know, we’ll have to ask Marlene! Marlene, you live in Ontario, what do you say?

    Canadians like cookies as much as our American friends! We like cookbooks too.

  • Elana

    Hi Michael,

    Because of your recommendation, I just bought the Gourmet Cookie Book. Although I’m one of those zany gluten free bloggers, I still enjoy such “regular” books, and am a huge fan of Ratio, by the way.

    Thanks for more great info.