Things really heated up Friday morning when the TODAY anchors had a good, ol' fashioned holiday bake-off (well, cookie-off).
It's never too early for a delicious dessert, and at 8 in the morning, Al Roker, Hoda Kotb, Dylan Dryer, Craig Melvin and Sheinelle Jones went head-to-head to show off their favorite cookie recipes. Jenna Bush Hager, Carson Daly and Savannah Guthrie (who is recovering from eye surgery) sent their sweet submissions from home. It's hard to say whose cookies were the best, but we'll let you be the judge of that.
Anyone who knows Al, knows he loves bacon. He incorporates it into breakfast with his gluten-free Bacon Waffles and into a variety of dinners, from bacon-wrapped scallops to bacon-wrapped turkey and even ham. So, why would anything be different when it comes to dessert?
When it's time for baking Christmas cookies, Al enhances the zesty zing of ginger by adding the salted, buttery, rendered bacon fat to the mix for The New York Times' Julia Moskin's Bacon Fat Gingersnaps. He likes to drizzle them with maple syrup and top with even more bacon.
Decadent? Indeed. Worth the calories? Absolutely.
Call them truffles or call them adorable reindeer, Hoda's cookies of choice will surely get people in the spirit. They use Oreo cookie crumbs as the coating, are easy to make and are fun to dress up like Rudolph. Hoda's recipe calls for original Oreos, but using some of the new churro mystery flavor instead might be a tasty twist.
In Dylan's house growing up, it didn't feel like Christmas until her great Aunt Tillie brought the cookies.
"My great Aunt Tillie would always bring them and we'd sit around the table after a big dinner and dip them in coffee," said. "Even when I was little, I was allowed to dip them in coffee! My husband's family has them every Christmas too, but they called them dodos."
While this recipe may vary from home to home, at its core, it's a soft, sprinkled confection flavored with anise.
What's a holiday cookie swap without classic sugar cookies smothered in a rainbow of royal icing? Craig enjoys making sugar cookies (specifically the ones from blog In Katrina's Kitchen) to get in the Christmas spirit. They're easy to roll out and bake in only 10 minutes per batch. Once cooled, decorating them becomes a family affair.
Sheinelle honors another age-old treat: chocolate chip cookies. Her favorite recipe is from chocolate company Guittard, but she's tailored it over the years to master the ultimate chewy, crisp cookie.
Sheinelle skimps on the 3/4 cup white sugar (omitting about 2 tablespoons), doubles the vanilla to 2 teaspoons and grates and folds in some dark chocolate (usually Green and Black’s 70% dark chocolate) into the mix.
"You don’t need tons," said Sheinelle. "I just use a fine microplane grater and shred up about 1.5 oz and mix it in to the batter. I usually put it into the flour because it helps distribute it throughout the batter."
Sheinelle bakes the cookies on parchment paper to prevent sticking and pops them out at 8 minutes (rather than 9 or 10) because she prefers them softer.
Jenna's favorite cookies (not just during the holidays!) are also chocolate-chip based — but with a lot more toppings. Her mother (and former first lady) Laura Bush's famous Cowboy Cookies actually beat out Tipper Gore’s gingersnap recipe at Family Circle's First Lady bake-off in 2000. These cookies are big (like everything in Texas) and jam-packed with mix-ins: oats, coconut, pecans and chocolate chips.
Savannah loves the buttery simplicity of shortbread cookies all year round, but when the holidays roll around, she gets festive with this wreath-shaped version. Almost too pretty to eat, these crisp, airy cookies by Martha Stewart are infused with Meyer lemon and adorned with sugared rosemary and thyme.
Carson's favorite holiday treat (other than his mom's famous Brandy Alexander) are simple snowball cookies that melt in your mouth — and Martha's got a creative (chai-infused!) take on those, too.
Who do you think should win the cookie face-off? Scroll up to vote in the poll above!