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And the Winner Is….

There are far worse ways to spend a Saturday morning than judging dozens of cookies with the likes of Eric Ripert, executive chef of New York’s four-star Le Bernardin; Dominique Crenn, executive chef of Luce in the Intercontinental San Francisco; Cindy Mushet, author of the Sur La Table cookbook, “The Art & Soul of Baking”; and Emily Luchetti, executive pastry chef of Farallon, Waterbar and Epic Roadhouse restaurants, all in San Francisco.

In fact, I can’t think of when I’ve had quite so much fun so early in the day.

The five of us braved sugar shock to help judge the 13th annual “Holiday Cookie Exchange” contest that aired live this past Saturday on “Dining Around with Gene Burns” (KGO Radio AM810).

The contest received a record number of entries. Burns, himself, spent a grueling 13 hours whittling down the 500 entries to a mere 26 finalists.

Even so, you just try tasting 26 cookies in one sitting. It was a tough job, but we five were up to the challenge.

In the end, we chose these four winners:

First place: Swedish Pepparkakor (ginger cookies). Thin, crisp, and with the bite of ginger. They tasted like Christmas.

Second place: Truffle cookies. A chocoholic lover’s delight. As intensely chocolate-y as a truffle candy.

Third place: Snow pies. Chocolate crinkle cookies turned into sandwiches with a filling of mint-flavored marshmallow cream.

Special prize (for originality): White Russian cookie cups. Vodka and Kahlua in a cookie? You betcha. Tiny, amuse bouche-sized treats with an Oreo cookie base and a dollop of boozy, creamy mousse.

Winners received prizes including cookware and weekend get-away packages.

The judges? Why, our gift was having the best job of all — eating our fill of cookies without having to lift a finger to bake any ourselves.

Find all 26 recipes here. And for those who missed the broadcast, you can take a listen or download a podcast for hour one, hour two, and hour three.