Old-Fashioned Sand Tarts


Start with an old recipe that has the following instructions:

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How to make Sand Tarts:

2 cups sugar
4 cups flour
2½ sticks butter
2 eggs

Mix and let stand overnight. Take white of one egg and beat a little. Brush each tart. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake at 375-degrees for 12 to 15 minutes.

What? And, you know, where’s the baking powder?

Clearly, this “recipe” is no real recipe, just the notes of an experienced cook who had made these sand tarts many, many times for many, many years, and she needed no more than a few jotted phrases to remind her of how to make them again the next time.

Upon questioning that experienced cook’s daughter, who inherited this old recipe and passed it on to me, I got this expansion on the instructions:

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How to make Sand Tarts:

2 cups sugar
4 cups flour
2½ sticks butter
2 eggs

Cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs, then the flour, just like most recipes. Once you have added all the flour it will be very stiff and you might have to finish mixing it with a wooden spoon or your hands unless you have a heavy-duty mixer. Don’t let the dough stand now. (Despite original instructions.) Instead, take about half the dough and roll it out to something less than 1/4-inch thick–thicker than pie crust but not much. Then cut into diamonds. Do this by cutting it into strips a little less than 2 inches wide and then cutting across those strips diagonally. The diamonds should be slightly longer than they are wide. Use a pizza wheel–the points tend to bend with a knife. Transfer to cookie sheets–the cookies are soft and a pancake turner-type spatula is best to do this. Using a pastry brush and beaten egg white, brush each tart. Dust with cinnamon. Note: The recipe completely omits the traditional crowning touch–a blanched almond in the center, aligned with the long dimension of the diamond. Now let cut cookies stand overnight (or all day–eight hours or so). Cover with dish towels–and put them somewhere the cats won’t walk on them. (At room temperature, not in the refrigerator. Really.) After at least eight hours of rest time, bake at 375-degrees for 12-15 minutes.

I followed these instructions except I didn’t have any almonds. I used pecans. And due to some sort of geometric curse, I couldn’t for the life of me cut them out in diamond shapes.

So I cut them out in circles, found the one spot in my old farmhouse where the cats can’t break in and let them rest overnight. Next morning, I baked them and brought them to 52, whose sister had given me the recipe. I said, “Look, I made sand tarts!!! Just like your mother’s!”

52: “But they aren’t cut out in diamond shapes.”

Me: “I’m geometrically challenged. I can’t cut out diamond shapes. I can’t, I’m telling you, I can’t! They taste the same. Are they not sandy? Are they not tarts?”


He tried one.


And seriously, you don’t need baking powder. (Is that weird or what?) Also–I did try baking a batch without letting them sit out all night. Just out of curiosity. They were still delicious–just somewhat chewier. Letting them sit overnight dries them out some, which produces a somewhat different texture, and honestly, I liked the ones I let sit overnight before baking better. (They were still moist–there’s a lot of butter in this recipe!)

Here is what these cookies are supposed to look like. (This batch baked by an expert, i.e. the person who gave me the recipe.)
Credit: The Anna Mary deGruyter recipe collection.

See this recipe at Farm Bell Recipes and save it to your recipe box.

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  1. Estella says:

    The Sand Tarts sound and look delicious!

  2. Jamie says:

    “Geometrically challenged” Ahaha! 🙂 I must be the same way because I couldn’t understand how to cut the diamonds when I read the recipe. It sounds really good and quite easy so I think I’m putting this recipe on my holiday cookie list.

  3. Fannie M Wiggins says:

    Sand tarts are delicious!!! I remember my Momma making them when I was a lot younger 😆 We didn’t have almonds in our house so ours were plain. The nuts didn’t make them less tasty. I believe I’ll try them but after the holidays. Take care and :hug: to all.

  4. Melissa says:

    These tarts look good. I think it’s the egg that makes them rise a bit and not need baking powder.

  5. Donna Mummery says:

    They look wonderful and are similar to ones I make in a hurry. I just take a stick of softened butter, a cup of flour and 1/4 cup of sugar, and mix, flatten in a small square pan and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes – depending on how brown you want them. I thought you could stick a pecan or almond around the top, if you like that. They are so wonderful – shortbread, of course.

  6. Jeanne Marshall says:

    Most cookies I have ever baked like sand tarts never require baking pawder. These are very flat cookies. YOiu do not want tothem to really rise, and the thinner, the better!

  7. SarahKoski says:

    This might seem like a silly question, but how big are your sticks of butter? When I lived in TX, a stick of butter was 1 cup. In WA, the sticks of butter are 1/2 a cup.

  8. Suzanne McMinn says:

    Hi, Sarah. A stick of butter here means 1/2 cup. I lived in Texas half my life and never saw a 1-cup stick of butter, so that’s a new one on me!

  9. Sarah says:

    Hmm! I’ve never heard of Sand Tarts. And WHAT are those yummy looking cookies next to the sand tarts? Any chance at a recipe for those too? Yay! New cookies to try!

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