What would St. Patrick’s Day be without the iconic symbol of Irish heritage and culture? On this day that commemorates the patron saint of Ireland, shamrocks are everywhere: on clothing, beer mugs, shot glasses, funny hats, and even questionable fashion accessories. I like to get in touch with my Irish heritage by making cute shamrock-shaped sand tart cookies.
Traditionally a Pennsylvania Dutch treat, sand tart cookies are thin, delicate, melt-in-your-mouth, buttery cookies that are blissfully addictive. I use a shamrock cookie cutter and homemade green-colored sugar to make them festive. May these cookies bring you the luck of the Irish!
WHY WE LOVE THIS RECIPE
- Perfect for any season. If you have a bunch of seasonal cookie cutters, you can make sand tart cookies all year long. This recipe is easy to customize with various toppings like walnuts and almonds.
- It’s vegan. Instead of using regular butter and eggs, vegan butter, flaxseed meal, and pumpkin purée make this recipe vegan-friendly.
- Not overly sweet. Sand tart cookies made with icing and candy pieces tend to be very sugary. Sprinkling a small amount of colored sugar on the cookies will lessen the sweet flavor.
- Fun to make with the family. Set aside an afternoon to make sand tart cookies with the family. The kids especially enjoy decorating with sprinkles; it’s like a fun art project!
Here’s what you need to make these delicious cookies:
- Plant-based butter: Store-bought vegan butter is made using vegetable-based oils and sometimes soy. Generally, they are acceptable to swap in equal quantities to butter in baking recipes. In this recipe I used Melt Organic salted butter sticks to replace regular butter.
- Flaxseed meal: When combined with water, flaxseed meal thickens and becomes the perfect egg substitute for binding a recipe together. In fact, flax seeds are insanely nutritious: they have 3 grams of protein per serving, are high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, and aid with digestion.
- Pumpkin purée: This is an egg substitute for moisture in this vegan cookie recipe. It’s perfect for various baked goods like cookies, muffins, and quick loaves of bread. It’s low in both calories and fat and high in fiber and healthy antioxidants. The substitution might add the slightest hint of pumpkin flavor to the recipe.
- Baking soda: It’s the leavening agent this recipe needs to give rise to the dough. Use the exact amount indicated in the recipe; put too much in, and the cookies will likely have a metallic, soapy aftertaste.
- Maple sugar: It has a distinct maple flavor that tastes great in baked recipes when used in moderation. Substitute ⅓ to ½ of white sugar with maple sugar in a recipe to see how you like the flavor, and then adjust accordingly for your next baking session.
STEP 1: PREPARE & CHILL THE DOUGH
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Stir in the flax egg and pumpkin purée. Mix well. Add the vanilla extract and mix again.
Use a fine-mesh strainer to sift the flour, baking soda, and sea salt together. Combine the dry ingredients and the creamed mixture. Mix until everything is incorporated.
Tightly wrap the ball of dough in plastic film or wax/parchment paper. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
STEP 2: MAKE THE COLORED SUGAR
Put raw cane sugar into a bowl.
Add a few drops of green natural food coloring to the sugar. Using a fork, mix the food coloring and sugar until you have a uniform color.
Let the colored sugar sit uncovered, preferably overnight, so that it dries out.
STEP 3: ROLL, CUT & BAKE THE COOKIES
Bring the dough out of the refrigerator and let it sit on the countertop until it’s soft enough to roll.
Flour your rolling pin and countertop or wooden board. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Cut the dough into two. Working with one hunk of dough at a time, roll the dough very thin. Lightly dip the shamrock cookie cutter in flour to prevent sticking, and then press it into the dough to cut out clover shapes.
Take the dough scraps and form them into a ball. Repeat the rolling and cutting process.
Sprinkle each cookie with some green-colored sugar.
Bake for 7 to 8 minutes or until the cookies start to turn golden. Adjust baking time as needed, depending on your oven. Gently lift the edge of a cookie and check for a light brown bottom.
STEP 4: COOL & ENJOY
Once the shamrock sand tart cookies are ready, remove them from the oven. Let them rest on the warm baking sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.
Let the cookies cool completely before serving or storing. They are perfect with fresh fruit, ice-cream, a cup of coffee or tea.
- Chill the dough before baking. Putting the dough in the fridge allows the fats in the butter to cool. As a result, the cookies will expand more slowly, thus holding onto their shape. Also, the dough has enough time to soak up the moisture from the wet ingredients, and the carbohydrates in the flour begin to break down into sugar. This makes for a more flavorful, golden-brown cookie.
- Roll the dough thin. For a crunchy, crispy cookie, roll the dough thin to around ⅛ inch thick. But fair warning: The thinner they are, the trickier they are to transfer onto the baking sheet. Just saying.
- Quality baking sheets are essential. The color and material of your baking sheet greatly impact the way your cookies turn out. Dark metal sheets usually over-bake cookies, while thin, flimsy cookie sheets result in burnt bottoms. I like using stainless steel baking sheets like these for great results every time.
- Watch the cookies closely as they bake. Because the dough is rolled out thin, these cookies bake very fast. Remove them as soon as they start turning golden brown; otherwise, they’ll start burning.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Can I freeze this cookie dough a few days before baking?
Sure, you can. Just make sure to defrost it in the refrigerator first and then let it come to room temperature before rolling and baking.
How many cookies did this recipe make?
I made 36 shamrock sand tart cookies using this recipe. The number may vary depending on the size of your cookie cutter.
How should I store sand tart cookies?
The best way to keep sand tart cookies fresh and crispy is to store them in an airtight container kept in a cool place. They can keep for up to 1 week. Don’t refrigerate or freeze the baked cookies. However, the dough can be frozen for up to 3 months.
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