When I begin planning my holiday gifting, one of my first thoughts is cookies.
For almost as long as I can remember, I’ve baked Christmas cookies by the hundreds, wrapped, and carefully shipped them to family and friends near and far.
Selecting cookie recipes and shapes that won’t break and crumble during shipping is the key to successful gifting by mail.
I avoid delicate butter cookies and sugar cookies with intricate designs such as reindeer antlers that will break off with the first bump.
For sugar cookies, I stick with rounded shapes, wrap two identical cookies back-to-back in parchment or wax paper, and gently layer them in metal cookie tins with crumpled paper in the bottom and at the top to absorb rough handling.
I developed the recipe for Heavenly Sand Tarts for my third cookbook, Celebrating Home: A Handbook for Gracious Living (Bright Sky Press, 2012). Because I flatten each cookie slightly before baking, I’ve found they ship well. These buttery almond cookies have a texture reminiscent of shortbread and a dusting of snowy confectioners’ sugar, so they look very Christmas-y.
Heavenly Sand Tarts
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon water
1/3 cup toasted sliced almonds, ground
Confectioner’s sugar, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter ad confectioners’ sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy.
Add vanilla, almond extract, and water, and beat well.
In a medium bowl, stir together flour and salt. Gradually stir them into the creamed mixture with the ground almonds to form a soft dough. Using lightly floured hands, shape the dough into 1-inch balls, place them on ungreased cookie sheets, and flatten them slightly with the bottom of a glass dipped in flour.
Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until the cookies are set. Dredge them in confectioners’ sugar while the cookies are warm and cool completely on a wire rack. To store, place the cookies in an airtight container with parchment or wax paper between each layer.
High Altitude Note: Adjust the oven rack to the upper third of the oven and increase baking time to 18 to 20 minutes, or until the tops of cookies feel set when touched lightly with a finger.
Yield: 3 dozen 3-inch cookies
When I was testing the recipe for my book, I gave a plate of the cookies to a friend and told her they were called sand tarts. The next day, her husband replied they were too heavenly for that nondescript name, so he would call them Heavenly Sand Tarts.
The new name became official.
Another reason I love these cookies is they bake beautifully at both low and high altitudes. For readers who routinely travel to the mountains for Christmas, you probably know the frustration and disappointment of baking favorite holiday cookies only to end up with flat, molten mounds stuck to the cookie tray. I promise if you adjust the placement of the oven rack and the baking time, you’ll have sand tarts even Santa would love. Merry Christmas!