Pennsylvania Dutch Sand tarts are a cookie I grew up eating and taking for granted. I thought everyone’s family made them and little did I know that it was a very regional cookie, introduced by the Pennsylvania Dutch, Amish and Mennonites.
The beauty of this cookie is how thin and crisp it is, which makes it so addicting. I haven’t yet met a person who eats just one and can stop.
My Aunt Rita was the only one in the family who made made them and I still have her handwritten recipe. I combined it with a recipe I found in an Amish cookbook, Cooking from Quilt Country by Marcia Adams. It’s the only recipe I’ve seen that separates the eggs and beats the egg whites stiff. You must use real butter, no substitutes, which is funny because my Aunt Rita hated butter, and the only time of year you could find butter at her house was when she was making sand tarts.
The sentimentality goes deep for me. Her son, Sam, my closest cousin was like a big brother to me. He passed away at 42 and left me everything including this book. I can actually remember the day he bought the book and showed it to me. He was very influential in how I view food. It was years before I delved into the book, but it’s quite marvelous, highlighting all the regional dishes I grew up eating, and the type of cooking that has enjoyed a renaissance. I can’t bake these cookies without thinking about both of them, and I will pass this down to the children in my life, which is why I made a video.
A very simple cookie, but one not so easy to get exactly right, as they must be rolled quite thin. The cookies are challenging only in getting them thin enough; otherwise it’s an easy cookie dough to make, but they must be made the night before and refrigerated.
It’s very tricky to send cookies out of town and keep them from going stale. I used cylinder tins and made a cookie that the recipe says will keep indefinitely.
I made these for Thanksgiving, and used a maple leaf cookie cutter and placed a pecan in the center. For Christmas, you might see them just like this, or you might see them with colored sugar.
When I mention sand tarts to people who know and understand the regional component, they get excited and plead with me to make them a batch. I hope you and your family will enjoy this long time Pennsylvania Dutch Christmas tradition. You will have to hide the cookies though, because they are so thin and crisp, it’s easy to eat a dozen at a time. This was the first time I’ve made Pennsylvania Dutch sand tarts and now I’ll be making them every year.
Tell me about your food traditions at the Holidays. Do you have a recipe that’s been passed down and have you ever heard of Pennsylvania Dutch Sand Tarts?
More Christmas Cookies from Spinach Tiger
Italian Cucidate (Italian Fig Cookie)
- ½ pound butter, softened (no substitutes)
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 eggs, separated
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup sugar mixed with ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 egg beaten
- 4 cups whole pecans (although I didn't use that many)
- If using a kitchen aid, beat the egg whites stiff first and transfer to another bowl.
- In the mixing bowl, beat butter until very softened. Add sugar and beat until fluffy. Add salt, and vanilla. Beat egg yolks and add.
- Fold in the egg whites, but not totally. You should still be able to see some of the white patches.
- Add in flour 1½ cups at a time.
- Chill overnight.
- Bake the next day at 350 degrees.
- Roll out a quarter at a time, keeping dough in refrigerator.
- Roll very thin and use a 2 inch scalloped cookie cutter to form or use any Christmas cutter you desire.
- Brush with beaten egg, top, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and top with pecan.
- Bake 9-10 minutes, not allowing cookie to get too brown.
- Cool thoroughly on wire racks.
- Pack in tins.
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