Baking sand tart cookies have been a family Christmas tradition for decades. A thin, crisp, rolled cookie with lots of fresh orange zest, I baked these cookies for years with my mom until she died six years ago. Since then, the recipe card, written in her handwriting that I would know anywhere, stayed hidden in my files. Baking them was not the same without her.
This year I decided to bake them in her honor and adapted her old recipe. What great memories it brought back. Citrus sand tart cookies. Thanks, mom. This batch is for you.
Unwrapping the chilled cookie dough, the scent from the fresh orange zest made me smile with anticipation. The original recipe is from the 1940’s Woman’s Home Companion cookbook. This tattered treasure of my mom’s is still in my cookbook library.
Baking with partially hydrogenated shortening, white flour and white sugar was standard in the 1940′s. Ingredients I’ve banished from my pantry in the quest to eat more healthfully. This revised recipe has the same great flavor, with updated ingredients.
My Ingredient Updates
I added whole wheat pastry flour to the white flour, swapped butter for shortening, natural sugar for refined white sugar, and tripled the orange zest. In addition to organic ingredients, I also chose naturally colored sugar sprinkles.
Naturally colored sugar sprinkles come in softer shades than the bright traditional colors. Concerned about food dyes made with synthetic chemicals, I chose decorative sugars from Nature’s Colors made by India Tree. These sugars use colorants from natural sources.
Rolling Out Cookie Dough
A rolled cookie is more work than a drop cookie, but worth it. Mom taught me to roll out cookie dough on a floured pastry cloth. Today, I roll the dough between sheets of wax paper or parchment. It’s easier, less messy, and uses no extra flour. And if your dough gets too warm and soft, it’s easy to put it back in the refrigerator to firm up for a few minutes.
Here is a video on rolling out cookie dough by Nancy Baggett, author of Simply Sensational Cookies. I roll my cookies thin, closer to 1/8″ inch (about .3 cm). Once you do this a few times you will get a feel for the dough and the thinness by running your hand over it.
Tips and Tools
For tools, you will need baking sheets (I use rimmed ones), a rolling pin, wax paper and parchment, a hand mixer, a sifter or fine sieve, and medium sized, simple shaped cookie cutters. Anything with a fancy edge will lose some of its shape as the cookies spread. Don’t worry if that happens. The cookies still taste incredible. Baking on parchment lessens the spread a bit.
Make the cookie dough a day or two ahead. It keeps well wrapped in the refrigerator. Allow the dough to stand at room temperature 1 hour before rolling. When you cut out the cookies, if dough gets soft, place it back in the refrigerator for 10 minutes and they will cut more easily.
Gather up your kids, family and friends and start a baking tradition of your own. Enjoy the joy of being together in the kitchen and creating memories that will last forever. Happy baking and Merry Christmas from my kitchen to yours!
Updated Note 2014 – Since we went gluten-free a few years ago now, I have not yet updated this to try and make it GF. Maybe this year!