Saturday, July 11, 2009

Sweet Rewards

After spending the entire week reorganizing my Nana's old recipes, I felt it was high time to reward myself. Having had a craving for cookies all week, the choice was clear. I decided to try my Nana's recipe for sand tarts. In theory, these crunchy, crumbly cookies are the perfect sweet little bite. In practice, the sand tart is often dry and practically flavorless. Appalling is it not? Never one to serve up a bland cookie, I took up the challenge with relish.
At first glance, everything seemed to be in order. Sifted flour to keep the cookies light, loads of pecans for added crunch and a healthy dusting of powdered sugar for extra sweetness. However, as the dough came together, it became clear that it needed a little help. There is nothing more disappointing than flavorless dough and we all know where that road leads--flavorless cookies. I started with a sprinkling of ground cinnamon, which added a layer of warmth and complexity to the cookies, followed by the addition of plain old sugar. It's amazing what a little sugar can do, elevating the recipe from blah to brilliant. After 12 short minutes in the oven, my sand tarts were ready for the final touch--a dusting of powdered sugar and cinnamon for the ultimate sweet finish.

Sand Tarts

2 sticks unsalted butter
4 tsp sugar
2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted and divided
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon, divided
1 cup finely chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350℉. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Sift together the flour, 1/4 cup powdered sugar, and baking powder. With the mixer on low, add the vanilla, 1/4 tsp cinnamon and the flour mixture, mixing until the flour is fully incorporated. Fold in the pecans. Give the dough a quick taste test. If it needs additional sugar, add it one teaspoon at a time until you achieve the right level of sweetness. Cover the dough and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Sift together the remaining cup of powdered sugar and teaspoon of cinnamon. Set aside. Shape the dough into crescents and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly browned around the edges. While the cookies are still warm, cover them in powdered sugar. Since the cookies are rather delicate, I use a mesh sieve to sprinkle the powdered sugar over the sand tarts. That way, you avoid the always upsetting sight of broken cookies. Yields 2 dozen.

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