Holiday cookie magazines intimidate me. I look at all those perfectly decorated cookies and get overwhelmed. Oh, I still buy them and read the recipes. But then I realize how many of my tried and true standbys are just as good and maybe even better. Not fancy-dancy but homey and full of flavor and happy memories.
During the holidays, my heart turns to Shortbread. Simple, only 5 ingredients, sweet, with endless variations, and my dad’s favorite. His family came over from Scotland, and Shortbread was always his go-to cookie. I think of him when I bake them, and I like to think he would enjoy some of the variations I make. Simplicity is good and Shortbread is about as simple as you can get.
This is a wonderful recipe from Ina Garten’s The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. I especially love how well these cookies hold up. They aren’t too delicate, and they ship well if you are sending cookies as a special gift to someone. Whenever I make them, I get raves! Make sure you try some variations, the candied ginger are my favorite!
By the way, I really do love and value your comments. Please feel free to leave one for me if you like what you see! I also love to hear about how a recipe turned out for you. So, comment away!
Makes about 24 hearts or whatever shape you’d like
- 3/4 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar plus extra for sprinkling
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat your oven to 350
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until they are just combined.
- Add the vanilla.
- In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt and add them to the butter and sugar mixture.
- Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together.
- Dump onto a flour-dusted surface and shape into a flat disc.
- Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.
- Roll the dough 1/2 inch thick and cut with a 3-inch cookie cutter. I use a heart-shaped one.
- Place the hearts on an ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until the edges begin to brown.
- Allow cooling to room temperature.
- One batch of shortbread dough
- Good raspberry jam or preserves
When you are cutting out your cookies, let’s say you are using a round cookie cutter, cut out half of the cookies whole, and for the other half, cut a shape out of the middle. It can be a smaller circle or a little star or a heart or whatever you’d like.
Now, spread the raspberry preserves on the flat side of the solid cookie. Dust the top of the cut-out cookies with confectioners sugar and press the flat sides together, making a cookie sandwich with the raspberry preserves in the center and the confectioner’s sugar on top.
Pecan Shortbread cookies.
- To the butter and sugar in the above recipe, add the vanilla and also 1 teaspoon of pure almond extract.
- Sift together the flour and salt and add them to the butter and sugar mixture.
- Add 1 1/2 cups pecans, diced small, and continue with the recipe.
- Roll out and cut into whatever shapes you like.
- Bake at 350 for 20 to 25 minutes until edges begin to brown.
Ginger Shortbread cookies.
- To the basic shortbread recipe, add 3/4 cup of finely chopped Crystallized Ginger.
- Roll out and bake.
Chocolate dipped Shortbread
- Melt a cup of chocolate chips in the microwave or in a double boiler.
- Dip half of your shortbread hearts in the chocolate. Let the excess drip off.
- Place hearts on a sheet of wax paper and let them dry.
- Store in an airtight container with sheets of waxed paper between the layers.
- Be creative! Add spices (cinnamon or curry would be nice), different nuts, and maybe dried cranberries chopped up fine.
- Dip half of each shortbread in white chocolate and drizzle with dark.
- Chill the cut-out cookies for 10 minutes before you bake them for a sharper edge.
- Shortbread can be cut into shapes and refrigerated for up to a week and then baked the day you want to serve them.
- For extra flavor, roast your pecans on a baking sheet at 350 for 8 minutes before chopping them up.
- Happy baking!