This week it was time to mail our packages for the second round of Secret Baker. The theme for this round was Christmas cookies and I had plenty of resources in which to search for recipes. Have I mentioned my obsession with holiday baking magazines this year? It seems that every time I head to the store the selection grows and I find yet another magazine I simply must have :) I don't remember feeling the need to buy so many magazines last year so hopefully this problem will resolve itself before next year!
I found this recipe for candy cane cookies in Martha Stewart's Holiday Sweets magazine. They're essentially sugar cookies (with either a little almond or peppermint extract for flavoring) and I just thought they were adorable and so appropriate for the season. The recipe only calls for a few ingredients but it is a bit time consuming, between shaping the cookies and the multiple chill times required for the dough. I even roped Shane into helping me shape the cookies so I could get it done faster.
When it comes to tinting the dough, be patient - it will take time and a fair amount of kneading to get the color worked in, but you will be rewarded. I used the no taste red coloring from Wilton and needed a relatively small amount to achieve the pinkish color in my cookies. The dough is fairly easy to work with, though I did have more trouble with the tinted dough than the untinted. While forming the candy canes, the untinted dough had to be repaired several times. If you look closely at the pictures, you can see cracks that formed in the untinted dough as it baked - mainly at the spots where I'd repaired it. Next time I might try kneading the untinted dough just a bit as the kneaded tinted dough gave me no trouble at all. That said, once the cookies cooled completely they were solid and sturdy so I'm not too worried about it.
The cookies are tasty - a very good sugar cookie. I used almond extract in mine so they had just a hint of almond flavor, which is my favorite kind of sugar cookie. The recipe only makes 6 candy canes, but they are quite large. I hope my Secret Baker recipient enjoys these treats. I think they'd be perfect for your holidays gatherings, especially for the kids who will enjoy the fun candy cane shapes!
Candy Cane Cookies
from Martha Stewart Holiday Sweets
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sifted confectioners' sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond or peppermint extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting work surface
red food coloring, preferably gel-paste
coarse sanding sugar, for decorating
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and confectioners' sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, both extracts and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour and beat until combined.
Divide the dough in half and knead the red food coloring into one half until you reach your desired color. Form both halves of dough into disks, and wrap in plastic. Chill at least 20 minutes, or overnight. The dough can also be frozen for up to 1 month.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide the untinted dough into 6 pieces. On a lightly floured surface, shape each piece into a 12-inch log. Repeat with the tinted dough. Chill the logs for 10 minutes, until firm but pliable. Twist one tinted and one untinted piece together and bend at one end to form a cane. Repeat with all of the logs until you have 6 candy canes. Arrange the candy canes 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Chill at least 1 hour, or up to overnight, covered in plastic.
Preheat oven to 325 F. Bake, rotating the sheets halfway through, until the cookies are firm but not taking on any color, about 2o-24 minutes. Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let the cookies cool completely.
To Decorate: Brush the untinted stripes of candy cane with water. Sprinkle with sanding sugar; tap off excess. Cookies can be stored for up to 1 week at room temperature in an airtight container.