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One of the tried and true recipes we made each year was this wonderful, crunchy combination of almond and mint. These candy cane cookies pack a full almond flavor, but without the dense crunch of other similar ones I've tried. These have a lightness that works perfectly with the minty candy cane sugar on top.
I would get excited for these every year. I loved the process of sitting around the table, mom handing me a measured ball of dough, and rolling it into "worms." I always got overly enthusiastic about that portion and my worms would be a bit longer and skinnier than needed (usually I'd have to ball them back up and start again), but the rolling was my favorite part. Well, that and using a rolling pin to hammer candy canes into smithereens for the topping sugar. Ready? Set? Attack!
I laugh now to think back on what a contrast there must have been in those cookie gift boxes my mom handed out. Her candy cane cookies would be so neatly twined and shaped like perfect shepherds' hooks, while ours wibbled and wobbled and bulged out at odd places. Still, I suppose that at least meant whoever received them realized the whole family had a hand in the gift making process.
I recommend chilling the dough after you mix and separate it before rolling it into the canes. Otherwise it gets a bit finnicky and doesn't want to hold its shape as well. Another tip on these that I've honed in on over the years is to keep the candy canes in their wrappers when you crush them. I place the candy canes (wrapped) inside a gallon ziplock bag, place that over a cutting board, then go at it with a heavy rolling pin or, let's be honest, a hammer. The latter really does the trick quite nicely. Then you can shake the crushed candy away from the wrappers and you're all set. The wrappers help to hold it in place for the smashing.
Alright. Ready? Set? Attack!
almond & mint candy cane cookies
yield: 4 dozen
½ cup shortening
½ cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1½ tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla
2½ cups flour
1 tsp salt
½ tsp red food coloring
½ cup crushed candy canes
½ cup sugar
In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined.
Separate the dough into two equal portions. Add the red food coloring to one portion and mix or knead it until the color is evenly distributed throughout and there are no streaks remaining.
Chill the dough for half an hour or overnight.
While the dough is chilling, crush approximately 8 candy canes. Combine the crushed candy with the granulated sugar and stir to combine.
Using approximately 1 tsp of dough, roll into 4" strips and twist together, then bend to form a candy cane.
Bake 375º for 9 min or until cooked through. Do not let them darken or they will lose their light texture.
Immediately remove the cookies from the baking sheet and place on a wire rack to cool. While the cookies are still hot, sprinkle the candy cane sugar over the top.