Reader contest: It's cookie time!

Bakers, grease your pans!

It's time to dust off your cookbooks and enter our ninth annual Very Merry Cookie Challenge holiday baking contest.

For the ninth year in a row, we're asking readers to submit their yummiest, most creative, most asked-for cookie recipe for the bake-off.

The winning cookie will be made and sold by the Central Market stores in Fort Worth and Southlake for a limited time during the holidays, with proceeds going to the Star-Telegram's Goodfellows holiday charity, which benefits needy children in the community.

This contest is closed.

To get you in the holiday baking spirit, here are two recent winning recipes: last year's grand prize-winning cookie, ginger bursts, from Pat Laster of Arlington, and the 2010 winner, T's toffee temptations, from Tamara Reese of Fort Worth.

Ginger bursts

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 egg

1/4 cup molasses (recommended: organic)

2 1/4 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon cloves

3/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup coarse sugar crystals, for rolling

Lemon curd-cream cheese spread (recipe follows)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large bowl, combine sugars, butter, egg and molasses. Beat until light and fluffy.

2. Add flour, baking soda, spices, crystallized ginger and salt; mix well. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate 1 hour for easier handling.

3. Shape dough into 1-inch (or smaller) balls; roll in sugar crystals. Place on parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake 9-12 minutes.

4. Ice or drizzle, if desired, with lemon curd-cream cheese spread.

Nutritional information per cookie, based on 2 dozen: 205 calories, 9 grams fat, 29 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 35 milligrams cholesterol, 186 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber, 41 percent of calories from fat.

T's toffee temptations

3/4 cup butter-flavored Crisco

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar

3 large eggs

1 tablespoon Mexican vanilla

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 tablespoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1 (8-ounce) bag Heath toffee bits

1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans, toasted

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a 6-quart bowl, beat Crisco and butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Gradually beat in sugars and continue beating 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and mix in well.

2. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a separate bowl. Mix well with a whisk.

3. Stir flour mixture into butter mixture, incorporating well; follow with oats and mix well. Add chocolate chips, toffee bits and toasted pecans. Mix well; dough will be stiff and may need mixing by hand.

4. Spray cookie sheets lightly with no-stick cooking spray. Using a medium cookie scoop or tablespoon, drop rounded 1/8 cupfuls of dough onto the cookie sheets. (For a standard-size cookie sheet, space the dough balls 3 across and 4 down for a dozen per sheet.) Bake at 350 degrees 11-12 minutes, depending on the crispness desired. Remove cookies from oven and let them rest on the cookie sheet for 1-2 minutes before removing them with a metal spatula to a cooling rack.

Nutritional information per cookie: 135 calories, 7 grams fat, 17 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, 14 milligrams cholesterol, 108 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 46 percent of calories from fat.

Lemon curd-cream cheese spread

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 cup prepared lemon curd (see note)

Beat cream cheese and lemon curd thoroughly with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving as a spread for ginger bursts or other cookies.

Note: Lemon curd is available at Central Market, World Market, Whole Foods and other grocery and specialty food stores.