Candy Cane Cookies (submitted by Helen Leah Conroy) This was one of my favorite holiday treats when I was a child. It still is! Like many of the cookies that were new to our family during that decade (the sixties), this one probably was clipped from “Woman’s Day” or “Family Circle”. I make these every December and ship them off across the country to my parents and siblings, and now to my grown nieces and nephews. My husband, sons and neighbors look forward to them too! If you don’t care for a strong almond flavor, feel free to use a tablespoon of vanilla extract instead. You could also substitute a much smaller quantity (½ teaspoon) of peppermint extract if you like. The key to these is dusting the cookies with the candy cane powder while they’re still warm, so the scented pink sugar will stick. Enjoy!!
½ cup non-hydrogenated shortening (I use Spectrum organic.)
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ teaspoon almond extract ( or ½ teaspoon peppermint extract)
2 ½ cup sifted flour
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon red food coloring (or more, if necessary)
2 ounces candy canes (to make ½ cup, crushed)
½ cup granulated sugar
Cream the butter, shortening and confectioners’ sugar. I use a stand mixer on medium speed for about 4 minutes, scraping down after 2.
Add the egg, vanilla extract and almond (or peppermint) extract and mix well to combine (another 2-3 minutes should do it).
Sift the flour and salt into the creamed mixture and fold it in, to combine.
Divide the dough in half. (On a kitchen scale, I get about 320 grams per half.)
Into one half, mix the food coloring, using the back of a spoon. It should be a bright pink!
Wrap the half batches of dough separately and chill overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees (or 325 if using a convection oven and your manufacturer recommends that reduction).
Line two cookie sheets with parchment.
When ready to bake, take heaping tablespoons of each dough, roll them (separately) into 6-7” logs between your palms, then twist a pink strip with a plain strip and form into a candy cane shape, flattening very slightly onto the parchment lined baking sheet. Leave about 2 inches between canes.
Bake for about 10 minutes, until very slightly browned on the edges. Remove and allow to cool on the cookie sheet.
While the cookies are baking, blitz the candy canes in a food processor with the sugar until you have a fine powder speckled with tiny red shards.
While the cookies are still warm (and leaving them on the cookie sheet), sprinkle them with the pink candy cane and sugar powder, pressing very gently to help it melt and thus adhere. Gently transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.
N.B. I take a somewhat industrial approach to shaping these, adopting the following efficiency-increasing procedures. I first plop little lumps of chilled dough onto a parchment lined sheet, making an effort to keep them uniform, and truing up any that aren’t. I also check to make sure I have equal numbers of pink and white! I roll the dough into logs, but when they’re about 3 inches long, put them down onto another cookie sheet (parchment covered) and quickly roll them back and forth on the sheet. It shapes them more evenly. Once all the logs are rolled, I wrap and shape all at once.