A Christmas cookie called Sand Tarts has been in my family 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, in her handwriting, 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 the old recipe. What great memories it brought back.
Citrus Sand Tart Cookies 1940′s Recipe
Unwrapping the chilled cookie dough, the scent from the fresh orange zest made me smile with anticipation. Adapted from the 1940’s Woman’s Home Companion, this tattered treasure holds the original recipe for Sand Tarts.
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.
I added whole wheat pastry flour to the white flour, butter instead of shortening, natural sugar instead of 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!
Citrus Sand Tarts | Family Christmas Cookie
- 1 cup all purpose unbleached white flour 5 ounces/143 grams
- ¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour 4 ½ ounces/127 grams
- 1 teaspoon baking powder aluminum free
- 4 ounces unsalted butter at room temperature 133 grams
- 1 cup natural cane sugar 7 3/4 ounces/219 grams, note below
- 1 large egg beaten
- 1 tablespoon fresh orange zest
- 1 extra egg and a little water for an egg wash
- colored sprinkles to decorate
- Place a sheet of wax paper or parchment on a flat surface. Place a sifter or fine sieve in the center. Measure the flours and baking powder into the sifter and sift through. If there are a few flakes of whole wheat left, discard them.
- In a medium bowl using a hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until sandy and fluffy in texture. Slowly add the egg and orange rind and mix in.
- Add in the flour blend on lowest speed (or by hand) and mix until dough is smooth. The dough will be stiff at first, then soften. Split the dough into two portions. Form each piece into a flattened disk shape. Wrap dough disks well and refrigerate about 2 hours or overnight. When ready to bake, remove dough from the refrigerator and allow to stand about 1 hour at room temperature. You want the dough to be soft enough to roll but still chilled.
- Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. To roll out your cookies, place each dough disk between two sheets of wax paper or parchment, then roll with a rolling pin until about 1/8″ or a little thicker. Start in the center and roll out to the edges in all directions. Place the rolled dough in the paper back in the refrigerator for 10 minutes. Remove from the refrigerator and cut out shapes with cookie cutters. Place the cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment. You can bake cookies directly on a sprayed and wiped cookie sheet. They may spread a bit more.
- Whisk together the extra egg with 1 tablespoon of water to make an egg wash. This makes your decorations stick. Brush the cookies lightly with egg wash and sprinkle with sugars. Bake at 325 degrees approximately 10-12 minutes or until lightly golden brown at the edges. Timing will depend on your ovens. Allow cookies to cool for a minute then remove with a metal spatula to a cooling rack. Cool completely and place in an airtight container.