Twisted Cookies ~ With Rolled-In Sugar

by Lynne on February 25, 2012

Post image for Twisted Cookies ~ With Rolled-In Sugar

My Mom and I made Twisted Cookies for the first time in 1959 from a recipe printed on the inside of a cake yeast wrapper. My Mom made bread from scratch, without a recipe, and this tricky and unique recipe using yeast was right up her alley. When I left home and married, this recipe went right along with me. You might say I have been leaving a trail of Twisted Cookies behind me for the last 48 years. This is our family cookie and I only make them at Christmas time. If I ask my older son (age 42) what he wants for Christmas, he always says, “You know what I want, Mom.” And my older daughter and grand daughter have taken up the baton and are making their own Twisted Cookies now, carrying on the tradition.

My two older beautiful red heads, David and Anna, as teenagers at Christmas in 1986 with their gift cans of Twisted Cookies

My two older beautiful red heads, David and Anna, as teenagers at Christmas in 1986 with their gift cans of Twisted Cookies

In fact, originally I was going to call my blog Twisted Cookie. I even have a photo file on my computer called Twisted Cookie pics that I took in anticipation of my blog launch. I looked online to see if the domain name was free and it was! The next day I went to purchase it and someone had bought it and was offering it for sale for $16,000. I was furious and I cried. I had never thought of calling my blog anything else, so I had no Plan B. My blog was ready to launch and had no name. It took me 6 months to come up with a new blog name I felt I could live with. But that is a story for another post.

The Twisted Cookie Affair Menu in 1992

The Twisted Cookie Affair Menu in 1992

In 1992 I took my third hands-on cooking class in culinary school at UCLA. At the end of the quarter, we prepared a banquet for about 100 friends and relatives. It was held at historic Castle Green in Pasadena. If you go to their website and look at photos 10-12 in the gallery, you will see the gorgeous dining room we were so lucky to use. During the quarter, all the students brought different dishes we thought might go on the menu, and one of mine was my Twisted Cookies. They liked them so much, they decided to call our event The Twisted Cookie Affair. The other recipes that were mine were the Potato Blocks and the Chocolate Praline Terrine, both of which may appear on this blog at some point. In retrospect, I cannot fathom why the potatoes were given such a pedestrian title. Couldn’t we have called them Potatoes Lynnaise or something. Lol. Oh well, I was younger then.

I have already told the story of my second culinary school banquet in 1995 in my post titled Mini Lemon Tartlets and a Culinary School Banquet, which you can read here. That was the class where I had to seduce the other students into using my recipes, one of which was my Twisted Cookies. You can see one on the plate above at that banquet  sitting proudly with the Mini Lemon Tart, Sabayon and Berries.

Twisted Cookies 11

The Twisted Cookies photographed for this post were made at Christmas 2011, and the whole batch went to my older son for one of his gifts. It made him very happy. Here is how you make them:

After the dough is made, it is divided in two, wrapped in plastic and refrigerated.

After the dough is made, it is divided in two, wrapped in plastic and refrigerated.

The dough is rolled out over half the vanilla sugar and the excess around the edges is scooped up and rolled in on top.

The dough is rolled out over half the vanilla sugar and the excess around the edges is scooped up and rolled in on top.

The dough is folded in thirds and rolled out, and folded and rolled two more times.

The dough is folded in thirds and rolled out, and folded and rolled two more times.

The edges are trimmed to form a neat rectangle.

The edges are trimmed to form a neat rectangle.

 The dough is sliced in half, and each half divided in two. Just eyeball it.

The dough is sliced in half, and each half divided in two. Just eyeball it.

Each of the four slices is divided in two to form 8 1-inch strips.

Each of the four slices is divided in two to form 8 1-inch strips.

The cutting board is turned so the long side is facing you and the strips are cut in half, and each half divided in two to form 32 4x1-inch strips.

The cutting board is turned so the long side is facing you and the strips are cut in half, and each half divided in two to form 32 4x1-inch strips.

 Each strip is twisted 2 times and placed on an ungreased foil-covered sheet.

Each strip is twisted 2 times and placed on an ungreased foil-covered sheet.

They are baked to a golden brown and the sugar on the bottom caramelizes. The sugary top is crispy, and the yeasty pastry dough inside is soft and layered. I bet you have never had anything like this.

They are baked to a golden brown and the sugar on the bottom caramelizes. The sugary top is crispy, and the yeasty pastry dough inside is soft and layered. I bet you have never had anything like this.

Twisted Cookies 10

Print Recipe Print Recipe

Twisted Cookies ~ with Rolled-In Sugar

Yield: 64 cookies

2 ¼ teaspoons Active Dry Yeast (1 pkg) (NOT Rapid Rise, Pizza Crust or Bread Machine)
¼ cup warm water (100 – 110 degrees F)
½ teaspoon sugar
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup salted butter (2 sticks), chilled, cut into tablespoon-size pieces
2 large eggs
½ cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Line 1 cookie sheet with foil. Double pan to bake.

1. In a warm medium bowl, combine water, yeast and sugar. Proof until frothy, about 10 minutes.

2. In a separate large bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Cut butter into flour until rice-size with two knives or pastry cutter.

3. In the medium bowl, mix eggs, sour cream and vanilla into the yeast mixture. Pour the egg mixture into the large bowl with the flour. Stir thoroughly with a fork to make a dough.

4. Divide the dough into 2 patties, wrap each in plastic, and refrigerate a minimum of 4 hours or overnight. Place patties side by side, not stacked to assure even cooling. My patties were 18.5 oz each.

5. In a medium bowl, thoroughly mix together the sugar and vanilla until evenly distributed. Cover the bowl with a plate or plastic wrap so the sugar doesn’t dry out.

6. On a dry surface, place ½ of the vanilla sugar. Place one patty of dough on the vanilla sugar (leaving the other patty in the refrigerator) and roll into a 16 x 8-inch rectangle. Scoop up all the sugar from around the edges and spread evenly over top of dough.

7. With the long edge toward you, fold both edges toward the center, making 3 equal layers. Turn one quarter around and roll into a 16 x 8-inch rectangle. Scoop up any extra sugar and smooth onto the dough. Do not discard any of the vanilla sugar. Use it all.

8. Fold and roll into a 16 x 8-inch rectangle 2 more times. The dough should be about 1/4-inch thick.

9. Trim the edges slightly with a sharp knife to as perfect a rectangle as possible.

10. With the knife, cut the dough the long way into eight 1-inch wide strips. Cut each 16 x 1-inch strip into 4 equal pieces, each 4 inches long.

11. Twist half (16) of the 4 x 1-inch strips 2 times, over-twisting to stretch the dough in the middle. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Make sure the dough twist lies flat on the sheet. You may need to fan out the layers on the ends  somewhat to make sure each is touching the sheet. Press down a little to help it adhere.

12. Double pan. Bake at 375 degrees F, 15 – 20 minutes or until a rich golden brown.  With a spatula, remove from sheet immediately before the caramelized sugar hardens and sticks to the foil. Cool on a rack.

13. Discard foil on cookie sheet and replace with new foil. Repeat with remaining 16 dough strips.

14. Start over with the second dough ball and remaining half of sugar.

Note: Store in airtight container at room temperature for 3 days. Freeze in ziplock freezer bag for 2 weeks. Defrost at room temperature with top of bag unzipped, so that moisture can evaporate and not melt sugar or make cookies soggy. When room temperature is achieved, re-zip bag.

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{ 90 comments… read them below or add one }

Geeta April 7, 2012 at 8:20 am

Hi, Lynne. Thank you for your feedback. I have used the EnerG egg replacement when baking cakes. I just wasn’t sure if it would translate to your cookie recipe as well. I will give it a shot and let you know how it works out! Geeta

PS. My heart broke for you when I read about how you intended to name your blog The Twisted Cookie.

Lauren April 7, 2012 at 10:02 am

I am going to try making these today. Has anyone ever tried replacing the vanilla sugar mixture with cinnamon sugar? I’m thinking i may make half the batch cinnamon and half vanilla.

Lynne April 26, 2012 at 4:55 pm

From an email:
Wow, my daughter was on pinterest and emails me the picture of your twisted cookies and says aren’t these grandmas? My mom has made these my entire life. She found the recipe in a yeast packet, too and it has always been her specialty. My niece has the technique now, but I find them too time consuming for my patience!

It was fun to see the happiness these wonderful cookies brought to your family, also.

Joni Somers

jami June 1, 2012 at 12:49 pm

These are delicious! They are a little time-consuming, but your instructions were PERFECT. Very easy to follow!

Nejla June 30, 2012 at 9:54 am

Hi,

I finally made these cookies but they are nothing close to yours.. See my link http://www.devri-alem.com/mayali-kurabiye/ Could you please tell me what I possibly could have done wrong?

Thanks!
Nejla

Lynne June 30, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Hi Nejla! I think you did nothing wrong, but there may be a difference in the yeast, flour, or other ingredients. I see that your method is perfect, but the raw twisted cookies are starting to rise before going in the oven, so your kitchen may be warmer than mine. Your cookies look somewhat different than mine, but yours are beautiful and delicious-looking. Perfectly colored. I hope they tasted good! Lynne xo

Nejla July 6, 2012 at 12:53 am

Well sure there are a lot of differences in ingredients.. As I live in Turkey I couldn`t find sour cream for example and used the usual cream here in Turkey.. Whatever! It tasted great and thank you very much for this recipe.. I certainly will give it shot again..

Nejla

Carrie Spivey July 26, 2012 at 4:21 pm

I’ve been looking for a reason to make these, and as I can’t find one, I’m going to make them anyway. I have no need for so many, though, and not enough freezer space to store them. How do you feel about halving the ingredients?

Lynne July 31, 2012 at 5:47 pm

Carrie ~ I think it would work using half the recipe. But don’t you have friends, neighbors or co-workers to give them to? You could hang little bags on all your neighbor’s doorknobs during the dark of the night. People would think the cookie fairy had been around. Oh, all right, make half. Let me know if they turn out. I’m really glad you’re going to give them a try. xo

Cupcake Recipe September 18, 2012 at 1:19 pm

Hello there, just became aware of your blog through Google, and
found that it’s really informative. I’m going to watch out for brussels.
I will appreciate if you continue this in future.

Lots of people will be benefited from your writing.

Cheers!

Vicki October 16, 2012 at 8:08 pm

This looks like a recipe my mom made when I was a kid in the 1950’s and 60’s. I found her recipe in a Pillsbury bake off cookbook–the kind you find at the grocery store checkout–it was marked 25 cents! Anyway the cookies are called Starlight Sugar Crisps. In this recipe there isn’t any sugar in the dough but the other ingredients look about the same. It has always been my favorite cookie.

Lynn Beytien October 17, 2012 at 9:37 pm

Lynne, What a lovely lady you are, and what a wonderful memory this blog, and recipe brings back. My mother made these on every Christmas also. We called them Starlight SugarCrisps. They are DEVINE! You have been making them for 48 years, I was born in 1948. anyway, what a blessing to see the lovely tantalizing photo of these cookies. Iam not much of a baker. I do art, but may try this this Christmas or request my baker sister to make them:) Thank you.

chanda October 17, 2012 at 11:09 pm

Oh, wow, thank you for this! My mom used to make these and we called them German Sour Cream Twists, but they were actually little knots, I believe….kinda like a pretzel. I LOVE the taste of these and have always wanted to make them. My mom tried to tell me how, but your step by step instructions are so much better! Thanks so much! Next time I’m off the diet, these are on my ‘fat list’, LOL!

Carol October 18, 2012 at 10:24 am

Lynne (and Lynn) I can repeat your stories as well..It was around 1959 my mom began making these and we call them Starlights as well. I make them every Christmas too! A few shortcuts I have used are making the dough in the food processor. Usually I make up a few batches and wrap them and put them in the fridge till I am ready to roll them out. I have found they will begin to ferment after a few weeks and that makes them tastier. I’ve never known anyone else to make these.
Carol

Hannah November 2, 2012 at 5:36 pm

Hi Lynne,

First, thanks for this great recipe! These are like the cookies we used to buy from the bakery when I was a kid. I still remember the taste! Now I can bake them myself! Great!
I made the dough last night and wanted to roll it today. But, the dough was very sticky and it sticked to my surface and rolling pin and all my fingers! I put it back in the fridge for an hour, but still sticky. I added the sugar to the surface, but it did not work. Do you know what was the problem? I did exactly as you said, except that I added the yeast mixture to the butter/flour by mistake and then added the sour cream and egg to the batter. Do you think that this is the reason?

Thanks again,
Hannah

Lynne November 3, 2012 at 12:43 pm

Hi Hannah ~ I am wondering if you proofed your yeast with warm water and saw bubbles frothing. I don’t think adding the wet ingredients in two batches would make that much difference in the end. Did you use butter, not margarine? Did you mix up your 1/4 cup and 1/2 cup by mistake? So now you have some sticky dough, which at this point I would divide into four parts, roll out on a floured surface about a half inch thick and cut into squares with a knife. Or if it is really sticky, use a small ice cream scoop to place on a baking sheet. It would be a shame to waste your ingredients. I hope you will let me know what you think happened. Lynne xo

Hannah November 3, 2012 at 9:24 pm

Thanks Lynne for your quick and great response! I did all the things that you said. Maybe because it was my time cooking any kind of cookies, they did not turn out good!
The only thing that I forgot to mention was that I used unsalted butter instead of the salted one. But I remembered to add more salt to the dough to make it up.
As you said, I divided the dough in four parts and add more flour to my surface. I could just roll it one time. I cut them and put them in the oven. They did not look like your cookies, obviously! But they tasted great! Thank you!
Here is a link to my cookies: http://i46.tinypic.com/2ywh7cg.jpg

Joni November 20, 2012 at 2:42 pm

Well I made the whole batch today and the first twists from the first dough patty came out a little, uh, not-so-perfect. But I learned by the second patty and they looked great (yours are better!) and tasted great too! I look forward to adding these to my annual Christmas cookie trays – thanks again for all the info!

Ronnie December 5, 2012 at 7:17 pm

These are my favorite holiday cookie! We have been making them for years and learned the recipe from my Great Grandmother. Mine don’t turn out as pretty, so i will be taking a closer look at your directions to see if I can make mine look better.
Thanks!
Ronnie

Eileen December 15, 2012 at 8:44 am

Lynne,
One of the great memories I have from Christmas when I was little(late 50s). My German great aunt always made these cookies. My mom said she remembers her making them when she was younger also. My sister even called to see if I had the recipe this year. She said she remembers they were always her favorie at Christmas. Great memories last forever. Thank you

Lynne December 15, 2012 at 3:18 pm

From an email:

Dear Lynne,

For years I have searched for the recipe for cookies made with yeast which my Aunt made every year at Christmas.I have searched so many cook books, and so many cooking sites without any luck. I searched again last Christmas without success, so I really had no hope of finding it as I searched today – just decided to try again, when amazingly I found your blog and the recipe for the Twisted Cookies! I am so excited, and so thankful to you for posting it. My daughter and I will make them when she comes home for Christmas. Love your blog and will be happy to share it with my daughter- she has introduced me to so many :) .

Thanks for the wonderful gift!

Wishing you a very merry Christmas,
Susan Mahnken

Starla December 25, 2012 at 5:54 pm

Those cookies look so good, I cannot wait to make them tonight for my family, thanks for the recipe at http://www.castlecatering.net

mellissina2 March 28, 2013 at 7:31 am

Nagyon finom lehet ez csavart sütemény,kicsit bonyolult,de azért megpróbálkozom vele!!!Eltettem a receptet a könyvtáramba!!!Köszönöm!!!

Hungarian tranlation: These delicious cookies can twist a bit difficult, but give it a spin! Put the recipe in my library! Thank you!

Lisa March 28, 2013 at 9:32 am

any chance you could be talked into a youtube video the next time you make these beautiful looking cookies?

Lynne April 7, 2013 at 12:18 pm

From an email:

Hi Lynne,

I was brought to your blog by a picture of the Twisted Cookies on Pinterest. When I started reading the story of the cookies, I thought I was reading about my in-law family. My husband’s mother has made what they call “Sugar Twists” since the kids were little – and only at Christmas, like your family. She had a terrible time hiding them away from her boys. One year, she found only empty cannisters when she looked for the cookies.

She is in the first stages of Alzheimer’s now so her baking days are over. She and most of Dean’s family live in northern Minnesota, a good 5 hour drive from our home in the Twin Cities. Last year my sister-in-law brought her down to our home, where she spent the weekend baking, under the supervision and with the help of Dean and my sister. I’m in a wheelchair, so I’m not of much use, but I can peel and chop!

Dean is hoping that she will be well enough to make the trip again this year, because he and his brother and sisters were all very happy to see Mom’s Sugar Twists one more time.

Back to the Pinterest picture — I thought maybe you had come up with an easier method of making these great cookies, but it looks like the recipe is the same as ours.

I’ll be following your blog from now on, and will read your archives for other good recipes.

Sharon Olson

Laura May 12, 2013 at 1:04 am

Hi Lynne,

I want to try making these to bring to a friend on a out-of-country trip in 2 weeks and I have all the ingredients except the sour cream part. I just bought a tub of “Heluva Good French Onion Sour Cream” today. If I pick out the onion parts and only use the sour cream part, would it work? I have to omit the salt ingredient too cause the savory dip should have enough salt right?
Also, the 1 tsp vanilla ingredient for the dough, is it vanilla extract?
I’d like to know what you think before I start it. Thanks so much.

Lynne May 12, 2013 at 10:29 am

Hi Laura ~ Sorry, your French Onion Sour Cream will not work. You don’t want your sweet pastry beauties to taste like onions. Invest in some new plain sour cream and you will be so happy you did. And, Yes, it is liquid vanilla extract. Thanks for making my recipe and I hope you will let me know how they turn out. Lynne xo

Lynne May 19, 2013 at 6:47 pm

from email:

Hi Lynne,

I took your advice and bought some plain sour cream instead of using my french onion sour cream dip, good thing I did. My 1st attempt wasn’t as smooth sailing as I hoped because after rolling the vanilla sugar, the dough started to become soft so I placed the dough in the fridge to harden a bit. Wrong move. The sugar ended up liquidity which made rolling it out difficult and it started to rip. I couldn’t twist it like yours without it puffing out of shape but I did managed to savage it by trying to shape them into palmiers. They had many layers and tasted incredible.
Since I knew what I did wrong, I just had to try it out again the next day but this time I didn’t put the dough in the fridge after rolling. It turned out quite well but I must work on the twisting part. I tried to press it down after twisting but some of them seemed stubborn and broke free so what worked best for me was to just fan them out. Is it because I baked them at 350 degrees in a conventional oven instead of 375? But 375 would burn the cookies too quickly on the outside before thoroughly baking inside.
I will definitely makes these again, next time I’ll press these suckers really hard to make them stay from fanning out and hopefully after more practice they will eventually turn out as beautiful as yours. Thank you so much for sharing this great recipe.
Here’s a picture of what both of my batches turned out to look like. The photo turned out a little dark…I need to also work on my photography skills. =)

~Laura~

Rebecca November 16, 2013 at 6:32 pm

I tried these – and they turned out more like croissants than cookies. Maybe I have to roll the dough out thinner? They were very tasty, but were definitely more like pastries than cookies.
I will try again though! Yours look so impressive :)

Also, I used plain yogurt instead of sour cream because that was what I had on hand – I assumed it wouldn’t make a difference, but maybe it caused a slight difference in consistency of dough?

Lynne November 17, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Hi Rebecca! I’m so glad you tried my Twisted Cookies. You totally made my day! Next time, try the sour cream. I think you will be happier with the results. Sour cream is 73% water and 12-18% milk fat. Yogurt is around 89% water and around 3% milk fat. The extra water in yogurt would account for the croissant-like texture, as the water turns to steam to make the layers rise. When you make it with sour cream, still roll the dough out to a final 1/4-inch. That should do it. Also the sour cream will give your cookies a better flavor. Happy Holidays! Lynne xo

Mary Kae December 8, 2013 at 7:13 am

My mom discovered this recipe in a Betty Crocker holiday recipe book and has been making these cookies for over 70 years!

Faria December 9, 2013 at 2:11 am

Hi dear my question is can I use water insted of vanila plz answer me

Faria December 9, 2013 at 2:21 am

And 1 another question pl let me know that what kind of sugar I should use caster sugar or Granulated sugar

Lynne December 9, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Hi Faria ~ I’m sorry, but you cannot use water instead of vanilla extract. The water would melt the sugar. You could use any other extract also, such as almond or lemon. Extracts are typically 40-80% alcohol, which does not melt the sugar. The dough also has vanilla extract in it, so maybe you could invest in some, and keep it on hand for this and other baking projects. The recipe calls for granulated sugar.

Thanks for visiting my website and I hope you can try these cookies. Happy Holidays! Lynne xo

Faria December 10, 2013 at 4:49 am

Thank u so much 2night I wl try these cookies

Whitney January 6, 2014 at 12:22 pm

This is so cool! I love the look of your twisted cookies, how they fan out so beautifully. My grandma has made the same recipe since my dad was a little boy, and they are my family’s special Christmas cookie too, though we just call them twist cookies.
For the past few years, my sister, mom, and I go to my grandmother’s house and we have a Christmas cookie party, where we each make a batch of twist cookies. My dad always comes over after he gets off work, just so he can have some hot cookies.
It’s great to see another family with a similar tradition. I might have to change up the way I make them a little. We don’t cut the edges at the end, but I like how yours flare out.

Thanks for posting this! Brings back great memories. :)

Julianna December 10, 2014 at 5:44 pm

I was looking for a pretty yeasted cookie and spotted your twists right away. My dough is sitting in the fridge waiting to be rolled tomorrow. Question is how many tri-folds total? 3 or 4? I tried to count your layers and I see 9, but I think the direction says to do it four times. I expect it’s really not that big a deal if the layers can maintain their integrity, but I’d love an answer, you know if you’re just sitting there waiting for questions.
Thank you! Your work is terrific.

Julianna December 10, 2014 at 5:47 pm

Oh and a second question: Why foil and not parchment? Is that a throw back to the original recipe on the yeast packet, pre-baking parchment days? Have you tried it on parchment?

Lynne December 10, 2014 at 6:43 pm

Hi Julianna ~ The Twisted Cookies are folded and rolled 3 times.What may be confusing is that it is rolled initially into a 16×8 rectangle, then it is (tri) folded and rolled 3 more times. Regarding foil vs. parchment: I have never tried it on parchment; however, I use foil because it conducts heat, and helps the sugar melt and become caramelized on the bottom. These are pretty sticky right out of the oven, but come off the foil easily. I suspect they would stick to parchment, plus it might hinder the caramelizing effect. Maybe you could do an experiment using both and let me know how it turns out for you. Thanks for giving me questions to answer, while I was just sitting here, you know, waiting. lol. You made my day! Happy Holidays. Lynne xo

Amy December 18, 2014 at 11:29 am

Hi Lynne–I had a copy of the predecessor (>50 years old) of this recipe from my mom’s old Pillsbury Bake-Off cookbook, which varies in method (you only roll and fold once) and ingredients (calls for 1/2 shortening). Both Mom and I had made them and thought they had potential but were missing something. I wanted to experiment and improve on it and found your site. Your version turns this duckling into a swan!

I’ve made a couple batches already this season and have a few observations. I used parchment and found it worked just fine, though I didn’t do a comparison batch with foil. Halving wasn’t a problem, either. I experimented with the sugar, too, mixing 1 Tbsp. cinnamon into the sugar/vanilla mixture, with good results. I couldn’t bear to discard the trimmings, so I used them to make a few “ugly” twists for my personal consumption. Fewer calories if they’re not perfect, right? ;-)

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