I had seen these cookies quite some time back on a couple of blogs and I knew I just had to make them with Christmas round the corner. Out here where we live, candy canes are just not part of the Christmas culture so cookies resembling candy canes were very unusual to us. It is however one of the things we connect to the Christmas we see in magazines from abroad, and the many American food blogs and sites I come across. I knew my daughter was going to love them, and that was a good enough reason for me to get baking them.
As it turns out, candy canes are not a modern invention but go back over 350 years! Apparently, it all started some time around 1670 in the Cologne Cathedral in Germany. The story goes that the choirmaster there wanted some way to keep the children quiet during the extra long services at Christmas time. So he asked a local candy maker to make some sugar sticks but wanted them bent into a hook at one end to resemble a shepherd’s staff, so the children might remember the shepherds who came visiting the infant Jesus.
The original candy canes were all white, and the first historical reference to the candy canes in America is in 1847, when a German immigrant called August Imgard decorated his Christmas tree with them. It was only after 1900 candy canes started showing stripes and colours.
These cookies aren’t very difficult to make. The two things that took me time was blending the colours I had on hand to get a reasonably dark red (which I didn’t manage very well) and rolling out the dough and twisting them into canes. This is definitely not a cookie you want to make with a couple of other things going on.
Candy Cane Cookies
- 125 gm salted butter
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp almond extract (or peppermint extract)
- 3/4 tsp baking powder
- 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp red food colour
- In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar well. Add the egg, milk, vanilla and almond extracts and mix well. Now add the baking powder and flour (sifted together first) and mix into a dough.
- Divide the dough in half. Add the red food colour to one half and mix well. Wrap both balls of dough separately in cling film and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
- Divide each ball of dough into 1 tsp rounds. Take one plain coloured dough round and place it on a clean work surface. Using your fingers, lightly roll it back and forth into a 4u201d long rope. Do the same with one red coloured dough round.
- Do not use flour while doing this, otherwise the dough ropes will not stick together. If the dough starts feeling sticky while rolling, place the dough in the freezer for about 15 minutes and then work on it again.
- Place one plain and one red coloured rope side by side, and twist together to form a double coloured rope. Place on a greased cookie sheet and curve the top of the rope to form the handle of the cane.
- Repeat with the remaining dough and bake the cookies at 190C for about 12 minutes or till they set and look dry and the plain coloured part of the cookie starts looking pale golden.
- Cool the cookies on the tray for 5 minutes and then remove them from the tray. Cool on racks and store in airtight containers.