Fond memories of a cherished friend come full circle every time I see a candy cane cookie. My best friend, Maryellen, introduced me to this delightful Christmas favorite that has reigned supreme as the holiday cookie most requested by my family. Maryellen has been gone for over 25 years, but as Christmas baking commences, I remember how I learned to make candy cane cookies.
I never would have attempted to try this recipe if it had not been for Maryellen’s encouragement. Making the dough was not the problem — it was twisting the red and white pieces into a candy cane shape that had me baffled.
“Bernadine, you can do it. It’s not that hard. Just watch me,” Maryellen said. “You’ll get it.”
My first reluctant attempts at candy cane cookies were asymmetrical twisted red and white stripes, very different from the perfectly swirled hooked shapes Maryellen had easily formed. However, with practice, my candy cane twists began to resemble hers; coming semi-close to the perfect masterpieces, she deftly placed on the cookie sheet.
I have to admit that even with yearly practice in the cookie arena; my twists lack the fine artisanship of my friend’s. I doubt I will ever equal Maryellen’s talent in uniformity when it comes to twisting dough and crooking the hook on my candy cane cookies. She was the master candy cane twister. In honor of a special friend, I am sharing her recipe with you.
Note: Prepare peppermint candy topping first, so it is ready to sprinkle on the hot cookies when they are removed from the oven.
Maryellen’s perfect candy cane cookies
Peppermint candy topping
1 small bag of peppermint candy or candy canes, crushed
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
Mix crushed peppermint candies and sugar
Set topping mix aside
1 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-1/2 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red food coloring
Cream shortening, butter, powdered sugar, egg and extracts until smooth.
Add flour and salt. Mix until cookie dough consistency. Divide dough in half.
Add red food coloring to half the dough, blending well. Take one heaping spoonful of uncolored dough and roll into a 4-inch strip. Repeat the process with red dough. Lay one white strip and one red strip of dough side by side and gently twist together in a rope pattern.
Place cookie twist on an ungreased cookie sheet, crooking one end to form a candy cane shape.
Bake in preheated 375-degree oven for 9 minutes until lightly brown.
Immediately sprinkle warm cookies with crushed peppermint topping. Topping will stick to the cookies as they cool.
Note: Makes 4 dozen
Bernadine Chapman-Cruz is a contributing writer for Big Monkey Group Publications. Raised in Stockton, she lives in Lodi with her husband, a cat named "L" and dog, "Forest." She enjoys writing, cooking and dining out.