Five Days of Cookies: Traditional Christmas Shortbread


Since I wasn’t sure HOW I was going to find time to prepare FIVE different batches of cookies in FIVE days ALL by myself, I decided to summon the help of my friends.

The following entry and tasty recipe was written by my blogging/cooking/creative thinking friend Colleen.  (read her blog here)

Enjoy!

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Traditional Christmas Shortbread

I love food that is versatile.  If you find something that is good in its basic form and fantastic with a few enhancements you have the basis for a thousand and one tasty treats.  You can go as far as your imagination will take you!

Shortbread is one of those adaptable wonders. Mild, buttery, and flaky in  its purest form it takes on new dimensions with the addition of nuts, flavorings, spices, fruits, candies, frosting, and just about anything else you can imagine.

We will start with the basic traditional recipe for shortbread and explore a few variations near the end.  Have a piping hot cup of Earl Grey ready, you are gonna need it!

Traditional Christmas Shortbread
Makes 12-16  (Depending on the size of your cookie cutters)

Ingredients:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter  (do not use salted) – softened
2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon salt
½ cup confectioners’ sugar

Wisk together the flour and the salt and set aside.

In a bowl or stand mixer, beat butter until creamy.

Add sugar and beat another 2 minutes until very light and fluffy. Time it! It is more time than it seems like.

Add flavoring if you are using it. One teaspoon is a nice starting point. Adjust to taste. I added vanilla.

This is a good time to give the bowl a good scrape down to make sure everything is incorporated.

Slowly add flour and mix on low until just combined. Low. LOW!!! I didn’t and ended up with a mess. I left that picture out to preserve my dignity!

Don’t over mix. You will get a heavy cookie. Light and fluffy is what you are looking for!

Gather into a ball with your hands, wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about an hour. (This is what happens when you roll the ball with your left hand and take the picture with your right. You look like you have a paddle hand!)

NOTE: At this point the dough can be well wrapped and frozen for a few months. It will keep well in an airtight container in your fridge for up to three weeks.

Didn’t I tell you this is an awesome cookie!?  You can pull the dough out a little at a time and try different variations with each batch.  What fun!  Make it once and enjoy it many times! This is a lazy day cookie if ever I saw one.  Since I’m a  lazy kinda’ girl this recipe and me are gonna be goooood friends!

If you decide to bake some right away, (Well duh! I have my Earl Grey Ready!), roll dough onto a lightly floured surface or between two pieces of wax paper or saran wrap until ¼ inch thick.Cut into desired shapes. I’m using a 3″ scalloped edge biscuit cutter. Remember that baking time for each cookie will vary depending on the size and shape of the cookies. Larger, longer. Smaller, shorter. You get the idea!

Place on ungreased baking sheet and chill until firm. Don’t give in to the temptation to skip this step or your cookies will spread and thin out and look horrible. These don’t puff up a whole lot but don’t crowd them. Chill about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325F.  Bake until firm and just starting to color. They burn easily so keep an eye on the first few batches until you see how your particular oven bakes.   Start peeking in the window about 10 minutes in.

Cool on a wire rack.

Dip into a steaming hot cup of your favorite tea and enjoy!!

 General Variation Ideas

When you first mix them, or when you pull out a piece of dough to bake, throw in some of these items and you will change the simple essence of the original cookie into something extraordinary!

1)    Nuts – You name it you can add it! Just make sure you chop them finely or they may prevent you from rolling the dough thin enough.

2)    Dried Fruits – Same as for nuts, chop finely.

3)    Spices – Again, your imagination is your guide.  Spices and nuts or fruit go particularly well together.

4)    Flavorings – Best added during the mixing phase. You could overwork your dough if you mix it in later.

5)    Herbs – Rosemary and lavender go well together (as does rosemary and lemon). Experiment and come up with your own favorites.

6)    Candies – They add flavor and a bit of crunch!

7)    Frosting – A simple buttercream cookie frosting accentuates the subtle buttery cookie very well.  If you frost your cookies you can add chopped nuts, fruits, sprinkles, or candies on top.  It adds color as well as flavor!

Specific Variations:

Almond: Add ½ cup powdered almonds and 1 tsp almond extract to the creamed butter.

Lemon: Add 2 teaspoons lemon zest and a few drops of lemon extract if desired.

Ginger: Substitute brown sugar for the icing sugar.  Add 1 tsp ground ginger, 1 tsp ground cinnamon and a pinch of cloves to the flour mixture.

Green Tea:  Whisk 2 tablespoons of finely ground green tea with the flour and salt.

Chocolate: Add ½ cup cocoa to the flour and salt. Dip baked cookies in dark chocolate for a mouth-watering double-chocolate treat.

Vanilla: Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or scrape the seeds from one vanilla bean into the creamed butter

Espresso: Dissolve 2 tablespoons espresso powder in 1 teaspoon hot water. Add to creamed butter and sugar mixture before adding flour.

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16 thoughts on “Five Days of Cookies: Traditional Christmas Shortbread

  1. Those sound really good but it seems like so many things can go wrong. I’d have to make them when I’m not crabby, stressed, tired, hot, cold, sad, anxious, bloated, rushed and my hair isn’t staticy. So, I guess that would be never. 😦 I’m supposed to be making cookies for a cookie swap this week. Post something easy. ha ha.

    • Haha! Once I made shortbread with lowfat butter AND applesauce. They turned out like hockey pucks! That was when I tried making every dessert “healthy.” But try them anyway!
      Or…you should make Momma’s mint trees!

    • These are actually really easy – you just have to mind a few points and not rush them. You can mix them quickly in the morning and let them chill till you are ready to bake them later in the day or even get them to the point where they are on the cookie sheet and keep them to bake them the next day! They have two natural stopping points so you can do a bit here and there and not have to do a big cookie baking all in one day! Plus I tend to be a bit bossy – so don’t let my remarks keep you from trying them – they are wonderful! Make them just once and you will see! 🙂

  2. These look so yummy! The cookie cutter you used reminds me of a pretty label. Hey, maybe you could make a hole in these cookies, write names on them and use them as edible gift tags!

  3. You know what’s really easy to make? Melt some chocolate almond bark and submerge peanut butter Ritz bits in it and put them on wax paper. They’re actully better if you get the regular sized Ritz and make peanut butter sandwiches yourself but the bits are already made and easier to eat.

    • Are you making these this year? I love mini Ritz CHEESE sandwiches, but they make my stomach hurt afterwards.
      Just make this shortbread already! haha

  4. Yes, i already made them. and i made snickerdoodles. and i made the soft chocolatey, minty cookie part of a whoopie pie and just frosted them with white frosting with peppermint flavoring in it. they’re really soft and minty and good. that’s it for cookies this year. it’s too much stress.

    • Wow! You need a cookie party of your own! I loved those spam-can cookies but that frosting pissed me off so much that I never tried them again. hmmmm, maybe I should try one more time….

  5. I will never have a cookie party. Bleh. I got suckered into having a dumb Pampered Chef party which I’m dreading as each day passes. By the way, that paddle hand is hilarious. ha ha!

  6. One of the pictures in this blog where she’s rolling the dough with her left hand she says she has a paddle hand. It looks funny. ha ha. I don’t think Pampered Chef parties are fun. They’re dreadful.

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