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Grandma’s Christmas Sugar Twists

Updated: Dec 27, 2020

“Family traditions reveal what you value enough to repeat…” - Daniel Willingham

What I love most about family traditions is that I can expect and always know that my family will carry on doing as they have always done, as long as I can remember. I rely on these family memories, yes, I am quite a nostalgic person. The word schmaltz comes into mind. It’s used to mean an exaggerated sentimentality, like what you see in soap operas or dramatic Hollywood films. This brings me to my point and the person who this post is dedicated to, my Grandma Wetmore. My Grandmother is obsessed with celebrities and movies, she knows actors’ names and lives as if they were a part of the family. She is also the typical homemaker, knowing how to bake, create things from nothing, and knows how to save every possible penny.

Every year around the holidays my Grandma Wetmore makes sugar twists. It all started in the 50s in Oneonta, NY, and a Home Goods magazine. She found this recipe and wanted to try it, She was just recently married and did not have very much baking experience. But these sugar twists appealed to her and so she ripped out the page with the recipe before passing the magazine along to a friend. This is where Christmas magic happens because anyone no matter what preference they have for sweet treats everyone loves my grandmother’s sugar twists.

My grandmother's original copy of the recipe got so worn out that she made a recipe card... which now over time is worn out as well

Over the years she has gained quite a reputation over her twists of sugar. She has a whole list of people that request these cookies every year and at the age of 87, she is still making them by hand. This year I convinced her to show me the recipe and I am very proud to present it to you, dear readers. A long time Wetmore tradition passed on to you, who will potentially make it your own holiday tradition.

The trick about these puppies is that they use yeast to rise, not baking powder. The other tricky bit about making sugar twists is the rolling process is long and quite tedious. Trust me, you will use some arm muscle to get a batch of these out in time to spread some holiday cheer. The most important thing about this dough is to not let it get too hot while rolling out. Let it set in the fridge in between the layering of the sugar coating, this will help the butter and shortening that are in the dough from melting out and ruining the twisted shape in the oven.

Although a lot of work these little cookies are worth it. So put a twist on your holiday plans and make some sugar twists this season.

Makes 64 Sugar Twists

Grandma’s Christmas Sugar Twists

For the Dough

¼ cup of lukewarm water

2 ½ teaspoons yeast

3 ½ cups of flour

1 ½ teaspoon of salt

½ cup of butter (one stick)

½ cup of vegetable shortening

2 eggs beaten

1 teaspoon of vanilla

½ cup sour cream

Sugar Coating

1 ½ cup of sugar

2 teaspoons of vanilla


  1. Put the yeast in lukewarm water and set aside.

  2. Sift together flour and salt.

  3. Cut in butter and shortening.

  4. Add yeast mixture, eggs, a teaspoon of vanilla, and sour cream.

  5. Mix with hands until dough forms do not over mix.

  6. Let dough rest for at least two hours or overnight (Note: for best results let the dough rest in the fridge overnight).

  7. Prepare sugar coating: put sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla in a bowl and mix well. Let sit while the dough is resting.

  8. Cut the dough ball in half and put the other half back into the fridge.

  9. Coat surface with half a cup of the sugar mixture. Roll out dough to 16 in long and 8 in wide rectangle.

  10. Coat the dough with 1 Tablespoon of sugar mixture and fold into thirds.

  11. Coat the surface with sugar mixture again and roll out the dough to 16 x 8in. Then coat the dough with the sugar mixture a second time with 1 Tablespoon of sugar mixture and fold into thirds

  12. Let dough rest in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.

  13. Roll out dough on a clean surface to a 16 x 8in rectangle and use 1 tablespoon of the sugar mixture to cover the dough's surface. Fold into thirds, then roll out into a 16 x 8in rectangle one last time.

  14. Cut the rectangle in half by the width. Then cut those two pieces in half longways. Cut 4 in long and 1 in wide strips.

  15. Twist the strips by taking both ends and turning them to create a spiral shape.

  16. Place cookies on a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes.

  17. Repeat steps 9 through 16 with the other half of the dough.

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