Shortcut Candy Cane Cookies

Reader Contribution by Kristi Nebel
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Dough prep takes 2 hours and 45 minutes including chilling.  Total shaping and baking: 1- 1/2 hours. 

Makes 78 cookies.

Special equipment needed: flat steel dough scraper/chopper.

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar
1 cup butter, softened
½ cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. peppermint extract
1 whole egg
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. red food color
6 Tbsp.finely crushed peppermint candies
1 Tbsp. Sugar

Directions:

1. Stir together 1 cup sugar, the butter, milk, vanilla, peppermint extract and egg in large bowl. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt. Divide dough in half. Stir food color into 1 half. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

2. Heat oven to 375º Fahrenheit

3. Stir together peppermint candy and 2 tablespoon sugar; set aside in small bowl.

4. For each candy cane, shape 1/2 rounded teaspoon of dough from each half into 3-inch rope by rolling back and forth on floured surface under the flat side of a steel dough scraper/chopper. Place 1 red and 1 white rope side by side; roll into one rope with the pastry scraper/chopper and twist. Then roll again. Place on ungreased cookie sheet; curve top of cookie down to form handle of cane.

5. Bake 9 to 12 minutes or until set and very light brown. Immediately sprinkle candy mixture over cookies. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.

I used to help my mother-in-law make double recipes of everyone’s favorite Christmas cookies almost every year. I dreaded making these because they took too much time in my opinion. At the same time the holidays seemed incomplete without them. One year when we skipped making them, I broke down and bought a dozen to take to my family. I was shocked to the core by the price. I guess I shouldn’t have been though, considering how much time they require in assembly.

This recipe is almost completely the same as the Betty Crocker version. There’s one vital difference though and that is the time involved in shaping the cookies. My version cuts off two hours of work. Betty really knows best in her website directions — without my improvement, it truly takes six hours to make this recipe! Mine look much better than the photo on her website too. Your guests will think you bought them from a bakery. But these also taste better than most, too, thanks to Betty’s addition of the mint extract and crushed candies.

The key to saving time is the use of the dough scraper/chopper. After years of contemplating the job of making these cookies I came up with this idea of using the flat side of this gadget to quickly roll the two sides of the cookie dough into ropes at once, and then to roll them together into one rope.

Or, if you get good enough, try sticking the two balls together into an oval and roll them into one rope at the same time. This not only takes quite a bit of time off the whole procedure, it also adds structural integrity to the cookie so it’s much easier to move each cookie on and off the pan and it looks better. The dough may get sticky, in which case you can flour the surface after sticking the two bits colored dough together. If you try rolling them separately on the floured surface, they won’t adhere to one another. Be sure to buy the small candy canes as they’re much easier to crush than the thick ones. A food processor works fine for this purpose.

The dough scraper/chopper is also known as a baker’s blade and dough cutter. I bought mine at a dollar store, but you can find a reasonably priced one from Bed, Bath and Beyond. These things come in handy for a surprising number of tasks including scraping crumbs off tables and counters. Be sure to buy one that is completely flat on one side; Norpro makes this design.

Kristi Nebel is a musician and a local activist in the Tacoma peace movement. She has done nine tours of the U.K. with her husband, Steve, and plays bass as well as sings original Americana. They’re planning their fourth tour to Kansas City February 2018. Find Kristi at Steve and Kristi Nebel and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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