Aug 20, 2010

Copycat, Round 1: Sand Tart (Collin Street Bakery)

A sweet and tangy pecan-laced shortbread, dusted with confectioner's sugar.

I'm all about original recipes, and trying to create rather than recreate, but occasionally something is just perfect as it is. The problem - that something is made by someone or some place that keeps the recipe a secret. Copycats are my attempts to recreate what was already done right. I'm no expert food detective, my palette isn't that developed. But, I'll give it my best shot. I'll give credit where its due when I find a recipe that successfully mimics what I'm trying to recreate.

The Collin Street Bakery is a Texas exclusive. Actually, it's so exclusive that only three locations exist: two in Corsicana and one in Waco. I don't know how or why Waco was chosen as the one and only non-Corsicana location [it seems that Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio...heck, even Amarillo would have been more logical choices], but sure enough, the all-white, plantation-style building stands proud in a city that just doesn't really offer much in the way of unique bakeries or food shops.

For the most part, CSB is a traditional bakery, selling cakes, pies and cookies. Though, they do veer off the beaten path with their signature product - the fruitcake. [Yes, you read that right]. CSB sells these fruitcakes year round, tailoring the varieties to each season. Cast all doubts you may have about the "Christmas" cliche aside, CSB's fruitcakes are melt-in-your-mouth, slam your fists onto the table delicious. But, I'm not trying to recreate one of the fruitcakes. It's August, and I just have a feeling I'll be getting my fair share of fruitcake in the coming months.

Collin Street Bakery's Sand Tart.
If I'm being honest, although CSB's fruitcakes are outstanding, their other baked goods vary in quality. The pies I've tried have a nice home-baked flavor, their brownies are too cakey for my tastes [their cakes are good, though], but their cookies are a letdown in my opinion. They are not terrible, they just don't have that wow factor you'd expect from the place that mastered the fruitcake, something infinitely less liked. The cookies too closely resemble what your local grocery would sell. But, of the 15 or so daily varieties, one cookie is the exception - the Sand Tart. A tangy variation of the pecan sandie dusted in powdered sugar, the cookie's flavor starts with a sweet shortbread, continues with a tangy lemon punch, and finishes on a warm buttery note. The melt-in-your-mouth quality completes the experience. [Hmmm, a trend here.] I dare even the most stringent eater to have just one.

Why do I want to recreate this? Well, since I've moved, I now live a nice 15 minute drive each way instead of the convenient around-the-corner. Even moreso, baked goods have a nasty mark-up. [I get it, you got to pay rent and keep the lights on.] These cookies really aren't that expensive, but this recipe probably costs no more than $3 or $4. In the store that gets me 6 or 7 cookies. Here it gets me 20. I also know, if anyone has attempted to replicate this recipe, they haven't posted on it. [And, it's cool to know that my blog will be the resource on the copycat for this cookie.]

Onto the good stuff. How did I break down the flavors I needed to replicate? It was important my cookies have the buttery flavor and texture with the lemon zing. I compared several recipes online and attempted one that just didn't work. Incorporating the lemon flavor was simple, but finding the balance of butter was tricky - how to use enough to get the flavor and texture without ruining the cookie's ability to hold together.

After my first attempt that ended in the trash, I broadened my search beyond sandie recipes. [Clearly, the pecan sandie was in CSB's mind when they dreamt the creation, but they took it outside the box.] I came across a recipe for Lemon Meltaways at Cannelle et Vanille and it seemed like a good match. Well, it was. Aran - the chef and blogger - deserves the credit for getting me 90 percent to the finish line. I added a few extra steps along the way to get a closer result. You can see these steps below, but I'll point out here that brushing the baked and cooled cookies gives them that lemon zing while and allows more powdered sugar to stick to the cookie itself. Don't be scared by the amount of lemon going into this recipe, it really only compliments, it doesn't overpower.

If you've never had a CSB Sand Tart, this is pretty close. I didn't quite get the entire melt-away quality that I wanted, but these cookies have a nice, smooth texture. They're a worthy replacement and come close enough that I think I'll do just fine with a batch of these to satisfy that craving. If you are interested in trying the original Sand Tarts or any of their other baked goods, the bakery does ship nationally. See the link above, but don't forget to try the recipe below first. 

Pecan Sandie Tart|copycat, Collin Street Bakery's Sand Tart
Recipe adapted heavily from Cannelle et Vanille
  • 12 T. butter
  • 1/2 c. confectioners sugar
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 1 T. vanilla
  • 1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 T. corn starch
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 c. pecans, chopped
  • Lemon juice for rolling.
  • Powdered sugar for rolling
  1. Cream together butter, confectioners sugar, and lemon zest. Stir in lemon juice and vanilla.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, corn starch and salt. Add to butter mixture in 1/3 cup intervals.
  3. Stir in pecans.
  4. Roll the dough into a log that is two inches by diameter and wrap in parchment paper. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for 2 hours or overnight.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  6. Cut the dough roll in half-inch strips and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  7.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.  [Cookie tops should remain white/opaque, and are done when the tops are slightly dry to the touch.] Allow cookies to cool completely.
  8. Lightly brush the tops and sides of cookies with lemon juice. [About one lemon squeezed will provide the needed amount for the batch.] Coat tops and sides of cookies with powdered sugar.


  1. Your sand tarts are close to perfect. This is my first visit to your blog but it will not be my last. I love your recipes and the photos of the food you make. I hope you are having a great day. Blessings...Mary

  2. I'm loving the changes you made to your blog! And the first picture of the shortbread cookie looks delicious. My mother is a big fan of pecan cookies, so I'm going to try these soon.

  3. @MaryThanks for stopping by Mary. Glad you enjoyed the cookies.