But just like everything else this year, I wanted to try something new. I can make chocolate chip cookies in my sleep, and I always say that they're my favorite, but that's not exactly true. No, my favorite cookie is the stuff of legends. One that most people these days have no time or patience for. One that, apparently, is so Pennsylvania Dutch that my friends outside the tri-county area have never even heard of it.
I'm talking, of course, about sand tarts. The paper-thin, crispy-crunchy, sugary-buttery labor of love that I remember from my childhood. If you do it right, they come out so thin you can see right through them. And when you take that first bite, unf, they just crumble in your mouth and melt on your tongue! I usually leave the cookie baking to my dad on Christmas (except for my chocolate chip, which Erica always demands), but this year I wanted a challenge.
However, not only have I never made sand tarts before, I've never even been in the room while they were being made. And I've always been under the impression that rolling the dough that thin is such an advanced technique that I shouldn't even bother. I don't even have a family recipe for them! But still, I wanted to try. I found a promising-looking recipe on an amazing blog called My Grandma's Recipes. [I picked this one for two reasons: 1) I liked the name of the blog, and 2) this was one of the few I found that didn't call for powdered sugar, which I wanted to avoid after my vegan baking disaster.] The only thing I didn't like about it was that suddenly, it became a two-day process, as the batter needs to sit in the fridge overnight. But that was a common thread in all the recipes I saw. If only I'd known that this would actually turn into a five-day event spread over the course of two weeks...
... Actually, no, I would have done it anyway, because I learned some pretty awesome things over the past fortnight:
- Meg, the author I yanked this recipe from, recommends lots of patience and wine. Because of my 60-day water cleanse, I had to forego the latter. Her way is definitely better--doing this sober sucks.
- I am a master of the technique of "creaming together" butter, sugar, and eggs.
Pictured: stuff that's been "creamed together," in case Hannah Hart was still wondering
- You can roll this dough so thin you can see the pattern on your counter through it, and it still won't be thin enough.
- Rolling this vigorously is a workout, also, I'm wicked out of shape. After the first night, where I only got through a quarter of the dough, my arms were like noodles and I was a giant baby about it at work.
- One "batch" of this dough makes a ton of cookies. I still have a quarter of the dough in the freezer.
- The only way I could get the cookies to stay together was to actually just roll the dough right on the parchment paper. I'm so happy that I figured this out after only ruining one mini-batch. I felt like a rockstar. Really.
- For the first time in my life, I really see the value in convection technology, and I wish my oven had it.
- Erica's family got the first quarter-batch, and even people as close as Philadelphia are not familiar with sand tarts! (I also learned that testing your first batch on people who don't know how they're supposed to taste is really the way to go. Huge confidence builder.)
- Decorating them is the only fun part. I got really into different toppings, and I seriously think they're the prettiest cookies in the world right now.
- You really do get better as you go. By my third quarter-batch, they were as thin as I think I'm capable of getting them. At least for now.