Thin and crispy sand tarts are simple and irresistible Pennsylvania Dutch cookies. Keep them classic with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar and pecan halves, or make them festive with colored sugars!
The Best Sand Tarts Recipe
If you’ve been around for a little while, you know we’re typically team soft and chewy cookies here at Sugar Spun Run. However, I will make an exception from time to time, especially when nostalgia is involved. And for me, there’s no cookie quite as nostalgic as sand tarts!
A Google search won’t produce too many results for this Pennsylvania Dutch classic, but if you stroll through an Amish market near the Mason Dixon line, you’ll be sure to find these cookies in just about every shape and color. Easily adapted for just about any holiday (although they’re most popular for Christmas and Easter), there are a few qualities about these cookies don’t change: an incredibly buttery flavor, perfectly crisp texture, and impressively thin appearance.
Three things to know about this recipe:
- These are very thin cookies. You’ll think you can’t roll the dough any thinner, but you really need to try and get it less than ⅛ inch thick for the proper crisp texture.
- The chill time is long, but it’s necessary. It’s also important to divide the dough into a few parts so you can let the dough you’re not working with stay in the fridge–we want to keep it as cold as possible.
- Customize them as much as you’d like! Skip the nuts, cut them into fun shapes, use colored sugars, etc. As long as you don’t change the cookie base, you can customize the toppings and shape to your heart’s desire.
What You Need
This recipe is adapted from a sand tart recipe my grandmother gave me. It requires just 8 ingredients–so simple and so good!
- Butter. We’ll start this recipe by creaming softened butter with granulated sugar. I like to use unsalted butter and add salt myself. If you only have salted butter on hand, follow the conversion in my salted vs. unsalted butter post.
- Eggs. My grandmother’s original recipe involved separating the egg whites and beating them to stiff peaks. We tried this, but with how dense the dough was, it almost seemed unnecessary. So, we tried again without separately beating the egg whites and were very pleased to find the cookies tasted identical, so we nixed the extra step! Yay for simplicity!
- Flour. We’re sticking with all-purpose flour for these sand tarts. Make sure you measure your flour properly, or you could end up with thicker cookies (and you already know they should be nice and thin!).
- Pecans. These are optional, but they do add a nice texture and flavor to the cookies. I typically decorate just some of my sand tarts with pecans, since I also love them with just the egg/cinnamon sugar on top.
- Cinnamon sugar. This is just a simple mixture of ground cinnamon and granulated sugar. If you have some cinnamon sugar already prepared, feel free to use that here instead of making more for this recipe.
SAM’S TIP: Cut your sand tarts into any shape you’d like! I remember my grandmother skipping the pecans and cutting hers into stars and santa clauses. Those were my favorites!
Remember, this is just an overview of the ingredients I used and why. For the full recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!
How to Make Sand Tarts
Make the Dough
- Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy.
- Whisk together the eggs, salt, and vanilla in a separate bowl, then gradually drizzle this mixture into the butter mixture while mixing on low speed. Increase the mixer to high and beat until lightened in color.
- Gradually add the flour until fully incorporated, then cover and chill the dough in the fridge overnight.
- Divide the dough into four equal pieces, then put three of the pieces back in the fridge. We want to work with one piece of dough at a time.
- Dust your work surface with flour, then roll the dough into a very thin sheet (thinner than ⅛”).
Add the Toppings
- Cut the dough into circles with a 2 ¼” cookie cutter and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.
- Brush the tops of each cookie with the beaten egg, then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
- Bake for 9-10 minutes at 350F (175C), then remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely, then enjoy!
SAM’S TIP: Since sand tarts are so thin, they are prone to burning easily. Keep an eye on yours while they are in the oven, as every oven is different and your cookies might be done sooner than 9 minutes!
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! 136 cookies is quite a lot, even if they are thin like these sand tarts. Most ingredients will halve easily, but the eggs aren’t so straightforward.
To halve an egg, you will simply need to crack your egg into a liquid measuring cup and whisk to combine the yolk and white. Take note of the measurement (typically about ¼ cup for a large egg), then spoon out the mixture into a separate bowl until you’ve reached half of what was originally there.
Don’t throw out the half that you spooned out–save it for the egg wash!
Sand tarts have Pennsylvania Dutch origins, similar to whoopie pies (also known as gobs!) and shoofly pie. You’ll often find them sprinkled with colorful sugars for Christmas or Easter in Pennsylvania Dutch bakeries and Amish markets.
Yes! You can store this dough for up to 5 days in the fridge. Make sure to keep it tightly wrapped so it doesn’t dry out. The dough might be a bit tough to roll out after storing this long, so you may need to let it warm up slightly before rolling.
Have you ever had sand tarts? I’d love to know what you think of my version ❤️
- 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
- 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 large egg beaten
- 136 (270 g) pecan halves about 2 ¼ cups
- Combine butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and use an electric mixer to beat together until light and fluffy and well-creamed.1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter, 2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, salt, and vanilla. Slowly drizzle egg mixture into butter mixture while mixing. Increase mixer speed to high and beat together until lightened in color (about 3 minutes).3 large eggs, 1 ¼ teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Gradually add flour and stir in until completely combined. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator to chill at least overnight and up to 3 days.3 cups (375 g) all-purpose flour
- After dough has chilled, preheat oven to 350F (175C) and line baking sheets with parchment paper (set aside).
- Divide dough into 4 equal segments. Using one segment at a time (keep the rest in the refrigerator) roll dough out on a clean, lightly floured surface. Dough should be thin, less than ⅛” (.3cm). Use a 2 ¼” cookie cutter to cut out shapes and transfer to prepared baking sheet.
- In a separate, small dish, whisk together cinnamon and sugar for topping.1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon, 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
- Use a pastry brush to brush the tops of each cook with the beaten egg, then sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture on top, then top with a pecan half.1 large egg, 136 (270 g) pecan halves
- Bake in center rack of 350F (175C) oven for 9-10 minutes. (Don’t let the edges brown too much as these cookies are very thin and can easily burn, keep an eye on them!). Remove from oven and allow to cool on baking sheet for at least 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.