12 Days of Christmas Cookies: Sand Tarts

This Christmas, we’re sharing 12 Christmas cookie recipes to help you prepare for your cookie parade. And on this final day, I’m sharing with you my very favorite cookie recipe, for Sand Tarts. (Despite the name, they are not tarts at all. And they have nothing to do with sand, either.)

As a native of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, I didn’t realize that these were a regional cookie, and now I’m on a mission to bring them to other parts of the world. They’re a perfect Christmas cookie if you like using cookie cutters and frosting and decorating your cookies, but, to me, they are best served plain, ideally straight from the oven. In that moment, they are still a little soft and incredibly buttery. A few minutes later, they become crispy and are also delicious–no frosting or sanding sugar or cinnamon imperials needed.

You have to refrigerate the dough overnight before you cook these, so plan accordingly. These have a lot of butter, which has to stay cool for you to work with it.


  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 lb (2 sticks) of butter
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 c. flour
  • additional egg white + 1 tsp water
  • Optional: shelled pecans, for decoration; cinnamon-sugar blend for decoration


  1. Beat butter until creamy. Add sugar and beat until fluffy. Beat in eggs eggs.
  2. Add salt and vanilla.
  3. Add flour, about 1/2 c. at a time.
  4. Divide into 4 balls. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerator overnight.

Baking Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Remove one ball of dough from refrigerator. Lightly flour a work surface and rolling pin. Roll out dough very thin–1/8 of an inch as any more will result in a chewy, not crisp, cookie. Avoid re-rolling dough as this toughens the cookie.
  3. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Brush with a mixture of an egg white whisked with 1 TBS water or just an egg white; this will produce a glossy sheen. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and place a pecan neatly in the center of the cookie. (Alternatively, you can frost and decorate after baking. Or, best of all, leave plain.)
  4. Bake 7-10 minutes, beginning to check through the oven door at about 6 minutes. These cookies are unleavened and so will not rise much, nor do they brown very much on the edge. If needed, remove cookie sheet from the oven to quickly check the underside: if cookie is browned, they are done.
  5. Remove from oven and allow to cool briefly on sheet before moving to a wire rack.
  6. Avoid placing recently cut-out cookies on a hot baking sheet as this will cause the butter to heat too quickly before baking. Instead, rotate pans so that only room temperature pans are being placed in oven.

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