Pennsylvania: Cranberry Walnut Sand Tart Cookies

Sand tarts are a Pennsylvania Dutch (Deutsch) Amish Christmas cookie. Here they are given some seasonal color and flavor with walnuts and dried cranberries.

Recipe source:

Originally from:

This recipe has a few issues, some in the transfer from the originating blog to the Bob’s Red Mill site, and some from me not researching sand tarts beforehand. Also, both sources call for twice as much butter than the other recipes I’m finding for sand tarts (a pound vs a cup. And no, unlike my very first post I didn’t screw up the butter amounts myself).

So the first wonky thing is that the recipe tells you to preheat the oven. Pretty standard, except when you’re supposed to chill the dough overnight. This was either a whoops when they copied the recipe over to BRM, or it was fixed later only on the originating blog.

It looks like frosting.
This is where I made my first mistake. A rookie mistake I’m ashamed to admit.

If you’re chilling a drop cookie dough, go ahead and load it into a bowl and cover it. But if you’re chilling roll out and cut cookies, for your own sanity form the dough into at least two discs and wrap in plastic. Otherwise you end up with this problem the next day:

Ever try to roll a firm chunk of dough that’s five inches thick?
Somehow I managed.

Have I mentioned that I dislike cutout cookies? This is the kind of dough a pro would roll out on a chilled marble slab with a chilled marble roller while standing in the walk-in. It cracks when it’s firm, turns mushy when it softens (or when a well-meaning but incompetent toddler decides to handle the cutouts), sticks like crazy, cracks and layers on the re-roll… Give me a drop cookie any day, or even an icebox log. Considering they were supposed to be round anyway…

Marked them with a fork like the originating recipe.

Oh, plus they spread and flatten and round their edges instead of keeping the crisp ones in the photos from the source.

After that I chilled the cookie sheets and the cutouts on the sheets, and on the final sheet I turned the oven up to 375°F and baked them for ten minutes (at 350°F they took 12-13 to get golden edges. Mind you they didn’t say how thin to roll them or how big to cut them).

Also, in the recipes I found aside from this one, the ones that call for half the butter but the same amount of everything else, say you have to roll the dough as thin as possible. And here I was, I who usually roll my sugar cookies way too thin, rolling them thicker to get a decent thickness of cookie (because the certainly don’t look wafer thin in the images either).

Many notes on this one, even though I forgot to note about chilling the dough in discs.

Overall impressions: All I can taste is the sugar. It’s just sweet. Definitely more a sugar cookie than the shortbread cookie I was imagining. I can’t even taste the cranberries and they’re certainly present. The directions said “1/4 c of dried cranberries, chopped” which means by the way that you measure 1/4 c and then chop it. Otherwise it’s written “1/4 c chopped dried cranberries.”

Tips and suggested modifications:

  • Reduce the sugar to 2 cups and see if that makes it less cloying. According to KAF, you can drop to 25% baker’s percentage of the recipe (so in this recipe it’s at ~63% if you consider flour to be 100%. More on baker’s percentages in the link above). It will also make it crisper and spread less (which I want).
  • If you want to really experiment, reduce the butter by half and see what happens.
  • Add some sort of flavoring, especially if reducing the sugar. Vanilla or cinnamon (either also increases perception of sweetness, if you cut the sugar down). Check another sand tart recipe for ideas.
  • Increase amount of cranberries to increase tart counterpoint to the sweetness. Try 1/4 C chopped instead of measuring 1/4 C and then chopping it.
  • Chill in discs, doofus.
  • Chill cookie sheets, then cutouts on the sheets.
  • Use a 375°F oven for reduced baking time (10 min in my oven). Higher heat will set the cookie before it spreads too much. Decrease the time for thinner cookies, of course.

Next time: More cranberries and walnuts but in Hamantashen (a Jewish stuffed shortbread cookie usually eaten at Purim). I have a feeling I’ll like these better.

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