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PA Dutch Sand Tarts

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Ingredients

1 cup (2 sticks room temperature) Butter unsalted
1-1/4 cups (248 g) Sugar white
1 Egg
2 cups (240 g sifted) All purpose flour
Topping
1 Egg whites
1 tsp Ground cinnamon
1/4 cup Sugar white
Halved Pecans half

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PA Dutch Sand Tarts

If you are going to make Sand Tarts give yourself plenty of time to make these cookies since the dough needs to be refrigerated overnight. They also take time to roll and cut them out. But they are so worth it! This recipe made 4 to 5 dozen.

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Ingredients

  • Topping

Directions

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Sand Tarts have been around my area for as long as I can remember. Sand Tarts are my mother’s favorite Christmas cookie and wanted them last year. I have heard how tricky they can be, so, of course, I had to try my hand at baking these wafer-thin cookies for this year’s Christmas dinner. My grandmother grew up in an Old Order Mennonite household. Even though my immediate family was Presbyterian, some recipes came down through my Mennonite side of the family. Lancaster County, PA, has a large Amish and Mennonite population, and this is a favorite Christmas cookie recipe for this region.

Many of the local churches’ women members created cookbooks to raise money for their church. The recipes in these books have been handed down from one generation to another. One such book is the Pennsylvania Dutch Cookbook, which was published in Reading PA and edited by Claire S. Davidow. Many of the recipe names I am familiar with and have fond memories of tasting as I was growing up.

The Sand Tarts recipe from the book was a terrific starting point. But I was not having fun rolling this cookie dough out, so I have added my way to making this recipe. I am positive my grandmother did not make them my way, but what the heck as long as they taste the same; it doesn’t matter how you get there.

Tools I used:

Uarter Rolling Pin with Thickness Rings

De Buyer Professional Collection Box of 9 Round Smooth Cookie Cutters

My Weight KD-8000

Other Holiday Cookies:

Fresh Cranberry Orange Pecan Shortbread Cookies

Cranberry Hazelnut Holiday Cookies

Fresh Cranberry and Walnut Frosted Cookies

 

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Steps

1
Done

In a mixer, add the butter and cream till light and fluffy about 2 to 3 minutes on medium speed. Add the sugar and blend for another couple of minutes. Add the egg and incorporate it into the butter-sugar mixture. Turn the mixer down and slowly add the sifted flour till all the flour is blended in. Place the dough onto a countertop or a pastry sheet and divide it into equal quarters. Take the four sections and flatten each one into a flat disk shape. Wrap each section with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.

2
Done

Now comes the tricky part. Taking one disk of cookie dough out of the refrigerator, you put onto a lightly floured countertop. Add a little flour on the top of the disc and roll your dough out to about 1/16 of an inch thick. For me, everything stuck to the countertop, the rolling pin, and even a pastry sheet. I was frustrated lol. If it works for you, you can skip to Step 5. If it did not work for you, I have an alternative way in Step 3.

3
Done

This step takes longer, but I got excellent results. I buy my parchment paper in half sheet sizes for baking my cookies. I took two sheets of parchment paper and place about 1/2 of 1 of the disks lightly floured between the two layers of parchment paper. I also have a rolling pin that has discs at each end to help maintain the thickness of my dough. After rolling the dough out, I placed the whole thing onto a cookie sheet and put it in the freezer for about 5 minutes.

4
Done

I bring the cookie sheet out of the freezer and peel the top piece of parchment paper off. Using a 2 or 3 inch round cookie cutter cut out the circles. If your dough is still soft and the cookie circles will not come off the parchment paper, stick it back into the freezer. Once they have firmed up, they come off much smoother. Transfer to a cookie sheet (I baked them right on the pan with no parchment paper). I put 12 on a cookie pan and place it in the refrigerator to keep them cold till I can fill a cookie pan. Since I used a 3-inch circle cutter, it took me two rounds to fill one cookie sheet pan of 12 cookies. Preheat your oven to 350°.

5
Done

Once the cookies are on the pan and ready for the oven, take the egg white and slightly beat till a little frothy. In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and white sugar and mix them. In another small bowl, have your pecan halves ready. Brush the egg white on the top of each cookie dough. Next, sprinkle the cinnamon sugar onto the egg white. Last put a pecan half in the center of the cookie — Bake at 350° for 9-10 minutes. If your oven runs hot, keep an eye on them after 7 minutes. It does not take long for them to be overdone. Once out of the oven, move to a cooling rack. They should be thin, and the egg wash makes them crispy.

Barbara

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8 Comments Hide Comments

I noticed that your recipe uses twice the butter for the amount of flour, compared with other Sand Tarts recipes. That would make it even more difficult to roll out.

Hi Carol sorry it took me so long to answer your comment. My aging father developed Covid and had quite the time. You could be right I am only going by the recipe that has floated around my family. Since you add flour to roll the dough it adds it in then to balance out the butter. This way I can control how much flour to add. You can always adjust any recipe so it is easier to work with, let me know how they turn out.

This a a very nice recipe. I do think sand tarts can only be baked by your grandmother. I remember them from Berks County, PA. They were very thin. a bit irregularly shaped, and topped with a walnut piece. I take pieces of the dough and roll it in my hands into a very small ball, then flatten it on parchment with the palm of my hand until quite thin.

Hi Jake, does it count that I am a grandmother? Lol! What a great idea, I love hearing people’s memories of baking when they were young and the different ways they come up with making these thin but oh so delicious cookies.

Just wanted to say these cookies are great!! Mom would make these around Christmas time for us. Later in years I would see how hard it was to roll out the dough and since moving to southeast Colorado I came across a tortilla press and when rolling the dough into round balls I would put a piece of flat deli patty paper on bottom and top and just flatten away. It keeps each one the same thickness. How big the cookie depends on the dough ball size. I hope this helps out the ones using a roller to get the dough the right thickness. Happy squishing:) Landon.

Oh Landon, what a fantastic idea! I would never of thought of using a tortilla press but I love it. Only someone who has struggled making these delicious cookie can appreciate what it takes to make them.

I’m from Lancaster too. Remember mom and grandma making them. We used chopped walnuts, and the whole egg for the wash. Found an easy(easier) way to roll them out. Flour parchment paper, put the dough on it and use an unclouded parchment on top. Roll it out, and flip it over and remove the floured parchment paper. We would make diamond shapes, but I’m sure circles would work to. Then just trim the parchment and put on the baking sheet. When they came out, you can re-score the diamonds. Works great.

Hi Jay I sent you an email but not sure you received it but I wanted to thank you for the variation of these wonderful cookies. I have also had them with walnuts and love them just as much. So many bakeries in the area have their own way of making them but I like them thin with cinnamon sugar and nuts. Yum!

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