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Sand Tarts from Bake or Break

By Jennifer McHenry,

My mother was not an exceptional baker. While we did often have home-baked goods, they were never anything elaborate. Slice and bake cookies and made-from-a-mix cakes were the norm. I never had any reason to question that, because to me they were as good as anything I’d ever had. She did have a few “from scratch” recipes in her recipe box. They were simple recipes -- quick and easy with a short list of ingredients seemed to be a requirement for making it into her collection.

Most of my baking experiences have come in the last several years and without my mother. Now, as I occasionally sort through my mother’s recipe box, I am amused by the differences in our approach to cooking and tracking recipes. I have multiple binders divided, tabbed, and overly organized. My notebooks used for recipe development are even color coded. In contrast, I find recipe cards in my mother’s handwriting that list ingredients with vague quantities, general directions, and sometimes no title. While that would cause me to lose sleep, it worked just fine for her. The method suits the baker.

As I have learned to bake, I have found that I am more of a made-from-scratch baker. I do take my mother’s simple approach, too. I’ve happily discovered that these two baking theories can live together harmoniously.

These cookies are one of her recipes from her jumbled recipe box. They are simple, buttery, nutty cookies with just a few basic ingredients that get mixed in one bowl. Honestly, the best thing about these cookies is their simplicity, both in flavor and preparation.

As a child, I frequently helped out with baking by measuring, stirring or, more importantly, licking the beaters. These cookies offered a way to get more involved. The last phase of mixing the cookie dough involves mixing with your hands. What kid doesn’t want to stick his or her hands in dough? After mixing, the fun continued by shaping the dough into logs. Plus, there’s the messy-yet-fun step of dousing them with confectioners’ sugar.

Many versions of these cookies exist with many different names and I've tried a lot of them. None of them come close to these. What portion of that opinion is based on taste and how much comes from nostalgia, I don’t know. My mother called these Sand Tarts. But, in her typical fashion, the recipe exists in that recipe box under the name Cocoons and also Yule Logs. And filed under A.


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