Wendy Sawatzky sent in a recipe for the candy-cane cookies that her mother, Phyllis Sawatzky, has been making for more than 35 years. Not only do they taste like Christmas, as Wendy says, they also look like Christmas, with their candy-cane shape and sparkling sprinkling of crushed peppermint sticks.
228 g (1 cup) margarine or butter, softened
250 ml (1 cup) sifted icing sugar
7 ml (1 1/2 tsp) almond extract
5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla
625 ml (2 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
5 ml (1 tsp) baking powder
5 ml (1 tsp) salt
2 ml (1/2 tsp) red food colouring
125 ml (1/2 cup) crushed peppermint candies or candy canes
125 ml (1/2 cup) white sugar or decorative sugar
Preheat oven to 190C (375F). In a medium bowl, cream butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat well. Stir in almond and vanilla extracts. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Add to butter mixture and mix until blended. Divide dough in half. Add red food colouring to one half, mixing until colour is evenly distributed. Chill both sections of dough for about 2 hours. Pinch off a generous tablespoon of dough and roll into strips about .8 cm (1/3 in) wide and about 10 cm (4 in) long. Place a red strip next to a plain strip, twist into a rope and curve the top like a candy cane. Bake on lightly greased cookie sheets for 7-9 minutes or until light golden on the underside. Do not overbake. Cool slightly on rack, then carefully remove from pan and sprinkle warm cookies with mixture of crushed peppermint candies and sugar. Yields 3 dozen.
Tester's notes: I like the interplay of the cookie, which has an understated almond taste, and its minty decorations. I experimented a bit to find what seemed like an optimum thickness for the dough strips: You want them to be quite thin -- they do plump up a little when baking -- but not so thin that they break easily. If dough becomes too soft as you work with it, just put it in the freezer for a few minutes.