This was one of my favorite holiday cookies when I was a child, not only because they are so great tasting, but also because they are fun to make, especially with children of all ages. I feel like I've been making them my whole life. (Actually, I have.) These hold special meaning for me because Melissa Clark selected the recipe as part of a recipe swap she organized for the Leonard Lopate Show on WNYC a few years ago; she interviewed me live on the show about them. I'm fairly certain that my mother found the recipe for these during the mid-1960's in a "Good Housekeeping" or similar magazine sold at the Safeway. If you don’t care for a strong almond flavor, feel free to use a tablespoon of vanilla instead. Be sure to dust the cookies with the candy cane powder while they’re still warm, so the scented pink sugar will stick. I do hope you enjoy these. Happy Holidays! ;o) —AntoniaJames
about 2 dozen, depending on how large you shape them
½ cup non-hydrogenated shortening (I use Spectrum organic.)
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ teaspoon almond extract (or ½ teaspoon peppermint extract)
2 ½ cup sifted flour
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon red food coloring (or more, if necessary)
2 ounces candy canes (to make ½ cup, crushed)
½ cup granulated sugar
In This Recipe
Cream the butter, shortening and confectioners’ sugar. I use a stand mixer on medium speed for about 4 minutes, scraping down after 2.
Add the egg, vanilla extract and almond (or peppermint) extract and mix well to combine. (Another 2 minutes should do it.)
Sift the flour and salt into the creamed mixture and fold it in, to combine.
Divide the dough in half. (On a kitchen scale, I get about 320 grams per half.)
Into one half, mix the food coloring, using the back of a spoon. It should be a bright pink!
Wrap the half batches of dough separately and chill overnight (or 2-3 hours, until nice and cold).
While the cookie dough is chilling, crush the candy canes with a few tablespoons of sugar until you have a fine pink powder speckled with tiny red shards. Using a food processor doesn't work well because the candy canes stick to the blades. It helps to freeze the candy cane for 20 - 30 minutes before crushing them. I break the candy cane into a few pieces and then line those up in the bottom of a tough (freezer) zipper lock bag, add a couple tablespoons of white sugar to the bag, and roll the bag around the candy three or four times. I hit the bag five or six times with a French rolling pin -- others have suggested using a hard mallet -- and then pick out the large pieces of candy canes, pour most of the small bits and powder into a small bowl, and then return the larger pieces to the bag and repeat the process, a few times if necessary.
When ready to bake, heat oven to 350 degrees (or 325 if using a convection oven and your manufacturer recommends that reduction). Line two cookie sheets with parchment.
Take heaping tablespoons of each dough, roll them (separately) into 6 -7” logs between your palms, then twist a pink strip with a plain strip and form into a candy cane shape, flattening very slightly onto the parchment lined baking sheet. Leave about 2 inches between canes. The dough is harder to work with when very warm, so if you are working with children or otherwise not working quickly, keep a portion of the dough in the fridge until you use it.
Bake for about 10 minutes, until very slightly browned on the edges. Remove and allow to cool on the cookie sheet.
While the cookies are still warm, sprinkle them with the pink candy cane and sugar powder, pressing very gently to help it melt and thus adhere. Allow them to finish cooling on a wire rack.
I hope you enjoy these. ;o)
N.B. I take a somewhat industrial approach to shaping these, adopting the following efficiency-increasing procedures. I first plop little lumps of chilled dough onto a parchment lined sheet, making an effort to keep them uniform, and truing up any that aren’t. I also check to make sure I have equal numbers of pink and white! I roll the dough between my palms into logs, but when they’re about 3 inches long, put them down onto another cookie sheet (parchment covered) and quickly roll them back and forth on the sheet, using flattened fingers. This shapes them more evenly. Once all the logs are rolled, I wrap and shape all at once.
Also, for those of you who take a project management approach to your holiday baking, organizing your time spent to achieve efficiencies by grouping like tasks together: it works particularly well to prep your candy canes for these cookies at the same time you're breaking candy canes for peppermint bark.
When I'm not working (negotiating transactions for internet companies), or outside enjoying the gorgeous surroundings here in the San Francisco Bay Area, I'm likely to be cooking, shopping for food, planning my next culinary experiment, or researching, voraciously, whatever interests me. In my kitchen, no matter what I am doing -- and I actually don't mind cleaning up -- I am deeply grateful for having the means to create, share with others and eat great food. Life is very good. ;o)