Thursday, December 4, 2014

Candy Cane Cookies for the Holidays

My grandma did Christmas well.
Each year the tree was decked out with ornaments that she had made herself.  I remember fires in the fireplace and a living room full of family.  I'm sure those times at my grandma's house have taken on that kind of rose-colored quality that can sometimes come over our childhood memories, but that's ok.  They were good times.

By all accounts, her candy cane cookies were pretty great.  They are inextricably connected with the holiday season in my mind.  Just as the sight of a jar of Almond Roca will always bring me right back to the jar that was ever-present on the shelf in her (off-limits!) dining room, those cookies always bring me back to Christmas at Grandma's.

I can still close my eyes and remember the taste of my Grandma Martin's beef stew, goulash, or buttery noodles despite all of the years that have passed since I was last able to actually eat them.  Alas, I don't remember what my grandma's candy cane cookies tasted like in that same way.
Yesterday I was feeling nostalgic and decided it was time to make a batch for myself.  Unfortunately, I don't have her recipe but I think these were pretty close- and absolutely delicious to boot!

The dough is simple, and a little delicate- I found that I definitely had to roll out the ropes between my hand and a flat surface rather than between my palms to ensure they didn't break apart.  I also incorporated as little additional flour as possible while I was rolling the ropes to make sure the dough stayed light.  I baked them on those Cookie Baking Sheets Reynold's sent me to try out a couple of months ago- I'm still in love with them!

These cookies remind me a little of spritz cookies with their light texture and delicate almond flavor. I'm so glad I found this recipe- they're definitely going to be part of my own Christmas season routine moving forward!

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sifted confectioners' sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red food coloring

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).

2. Mix well the shortening and butter, sugar, egg, almond and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix flour and salt and add to shortening mixture. Divide dough in half.

3. Blend red food coloring into one half. Roll 1 teaspoon of the red dough and 1 teaspoon of the white dough on lightly floured board into 4 inch strips. Place strips side by side and press lightly together and twist like a rope. Curve top of rope down to look like the handle of a candy cane.
4. Bake 9 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove while still warm. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup crushed peppermint stick candy and 1/2 cup sugar (optional).

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