The phrase “oldie but goodie” was coined for these cookies.
These lovely little things come from a 1950’s edition of Pillsbury’s Best Butter Cookies. Their official title is “Starlight Sugar Crisps,” but in my family we’ve always called them “the twist cookies” in hushed, reverent tones.
Every year my grandma would make these for Christmas. They were so hard to come by that I distinctly remember hording a container to myself one year. I scarfed down so many that I gave myself a stomachache and didn’t get to go swimming in the pool with everyone else.
My family had rented a bunch of rooms at a hotel in Wisconsin Dells (the water park capital of the world, you know!). Our family is pretty big and staying in a hotel meant there would be enough beds for everyone and we wouldn’t have to clean up the next morning. In fact, on my mom’s side of the family we used to do this every year so that all the aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents could get together under one very large roof to eat, drink, and be merry. Anyone else’s family do that?
Or are we just particularly raucous?
Now, sadly, we don’t do that hotel thing on Christmas. The cousins are grown and the family has spread out (hello, I’m in South Carolina). These cookies are still a tradition, but now they’re my tradition. My grandma entrusted me with her photocopied recipe of these cookies a few years ago and ever since then, they’ve been my responsibility. And my brother’s stomach ache when he’s the one hoarding a container and eating too many.
Do I need a more ringing endorsement?
Starlight Sugar Crisps
(makes roughly 60 cookies, adapted from Pillsbury’s Best Butter Cookies, Vol. 2)
1 pkg. active dry yeast
¼ cup very warm water
3 ½ cups flour
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup sour cream
3 tsp. vanilla extract, divided
1 cup sugar
Sprinkle yeast over warm water. Set aside.
Combine flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. On low speed, cut in butter until no sizes larger than small peas remain.
Add eggs, sour cream, and 1 teaspoon vanilla and activated yeast to the bowl. Mix until a stick dough forms. Form dough into a disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment and set aside. Combine the sugar and remaining vanilla.
Cut the dough disk in half. Sprinkle work surface with the vanilla sugar mixture and begin rolling half of the dough in an 8x16 rectangle. Fold dough over three times, sprinkling sugar on the dough each time. Roll once more into an 8x16 rectangle. Cut into 32 4x1 strips. Repeat the process with second half of the dough.
Twist cookies and place on prepared baking sheets.
Bake in preheated oven for 10 – 12 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately transfer to cooling rack.
Store cookies in an airtight container for no more than two days.
This looks so super delicious! I love the photos 🙂
DeAnna Braaksma says
My mom made these starlight sugar crisps every year, too. We grew up on a dairy farm on the Green Lake /Columbia County line in Wisconsin.. My mom used colored sugar between the layers to give the cookies some color. I have three brothers, and we all fought for the last one of these great holiday cookies. It is now my responsibility to keep the tradition going. We always used to gather at a relatives house, but this year we are renting a cottage on Fox Lake, Wisconsin at Hayes Resort.
I'll send you a picture of the plate of the cookies, before they are devoured. Merry Christmas!
Holy Small World, DeAnna! I'm from Green Lake County! Just moved back, in fact! And I will be making these twist cookies for my grandma this year, as I'm finally home to do so! Love the idea of colored sugar! Hope they turn out beautifully for you!
Henry Hamilton Plum says
Lost my recipe - a hand me down from family friend to ok to me. The sugar treat that determined when Christmas started and ended. My brother and I would eat so many we would get gloriously sick and couldn’t eat dinner. I wish life was so simple again.
Oh I am so happy to be able to provide you with a treasured family recipe! <3
Marcia from Pittsburgh says
These were a specialty of my mother's but she never made them at Christmas when she made at least a dozen other kinds of cookies. We called them "twisties," and they were a real treat at Easter or when it was someone's birthday. I have the original Pillsbury cookbook but the second page of this recipe is missing. Thank goodness for the Internet! I'm making them for Easter this year and remembering my mother who's been gone for nearly 10 years now. Thanks for letting me share this memory.
Oh Marcia <3 this story warms my heart! I am so happy to hear you could remake this treasured recipe. I have a very worn photocopy of the recipe my grandmother gave to me and I treasure it dearly. This is my first Easter since she passed and I am feeling her absence. Wishing you well on this day. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of it <3
My grandmother always had these in a tin for us! She frosted them with buttercream frosting! I am sending some to my aunt who just turned 90 in a nursing home. These will bring back fond memories of her life on the farm!
This seems to be a much beloved family recipe for a lot of people! I am so happy to hear you and your aunt can enjoy them, Betsey <3
My babysitter made these cookies every year at Christmas and they became a family favorite. My mom then started making them because they were my dad’s favorite. I’m 67 years old and I make these every year remembering those who made them prior to me. My recipe calls for 1/4 more cup of flour and I do the rolling and folding 3 times total.
My mother used to make these cookies and I didn't have the recipe. I remember that it originally came from a Pillsbury recipe. Once she realized how much my nephew loved them, she would make them just for him. It was a miracle that he didn't get sick from how many he would eat.
Thank you so much for sharing. Now perhaps I can continue on in her absense and make these cookies.
Amanda Gajdosik says
Oh Dulcie I sure hope you can enjoy these cookies and the memories they bring <3