Holiday Cookies—Southern Made
by Deborah Fagan Carpenter
There’s a whole week left to rationalize eating just about anything! The holidays aren’t over yet, and it seems inhospitable not to have something sweet to offer unexpected company.
I’m dialing down the baking binge to recreational cooking only. But, in the spirit of the remaining holidays, I feel compelled to make a couple of my favorite recipes—before the annual sensible diet resolution takes effect.
In the course of my recent baking spree, I pulled out an old standby cookie recipe, and I added a new one to my repertoire, both from New Orleanians. To my knowledge, I’ve never made Snickerdoodles, before this year, but the recipe below by well-known New Orleans chef and restaurateur, John Besh, is easy and delicious.
(John Besh’s Snickerdoodles)
JOHN BESH’S SNICKERDOODLES
½ cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
½ cup shortening
1½ cups, plus 3 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2¾ all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 350. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, shortening, the 1½ cups sugar, eggs, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Fold the flour mixture into the butter mixture until just incorporated. Shape the dough into 2-inch balls.
Mix the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar with the cinnamon and spread on a plate. Roll the dough balls in the cinnamon sugar and place 3 inches apart on un-greased baking sheets.
Bake the cookies 8-10 minutes until the edges begin to brown. Transfer cookies to a cookie rack.
(Chappy’s Sand Tarts)
They’re sometimes called Wedding Cookies, Russian Tea Cake Cookies, Pecan Sandies, or Snowballs, but Chappy Hardy called his Sand Tarts. I don’t know if he infused his happy spirit and New Orleans attitude into the recipe, but they’re my favorite holiday cookie.
I’ve been using this recipe for about 15 years, but I only recently looked up information about Charles Edouard “Chappy” Hardy, who died June 21, 2009. He was not only an excellent and enthusiastic cook, but he was a quintessential New Orleanian, who loved the city and celebrated it and its food in a television program called “Chappy Goes to Mardi Gras,” and a National Public Radio program called, “Eating Right, Bite by Bite.” He is also credited as a field producer for the movie “Ray,” a producer of “Storyville” and a publicist for “The Long Walk Home,” which starred Whoopi Goldberg and Sissy Spacek. He was listed as “production oracle” for “Kingfish: A Story of Huey P. Long.” He apparently never met a stranger, and he loved baking and giving his homemade gifts to his bounty of friends.
CHAPPY HARDY’S SAND TARTS
(Makes about 3 Dozen)
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon ice water
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup finely chopped pecans
Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add flour and next 4 ingredients, beating well. Stir in pecans.
Roll dough into 1-inch balls: roll out to 3-inch logs. Shape into crescents, and place on ungreased baking sheets.
Bake at 350 for 12 to 14 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely on wire racks. Dredge cookies in powdered sugar.
Enjoy one more “cookie fling” before the New Year’s Rehab Diet !
All photos by Deborah Carpenter