I have had the ingredients for a few days now, imported Danish butter, almond extract, dried cherries, vanilla bean paste, but I just couldn’t get myself excited about baking them until today. Now that I have, I wonder what took me so long! What am I talking about, you ask? Shortbread cookies. Buttery, delicate, delicious shortbread cookies. The sweet scent is filling my home and let me tell you, the candle companies ain’t got nothing on this smell!
I made some chocolate cherry almond oatmeal cookies last week for my coworkers. That is, I made them because I wanted to create a cookie with some flavors I like, but as usual, I made entirely too much and my coworkers reaped the benefits. I liked the cookies, but felt that the oatmeal was a bit strong and thought a butter cookie or shortbread would be a better fit.
Last night after facing my mortality with the tequila shrimp, I decided to go ahead and make the cookie dough. Scanning the web, I came across several variations of basic shortbread dough. Essentially, they are all very similar, but two caught my eye. The first is from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. The only change I made was adding almond extract in place of the vanilla. The second recipe was found on the Joy of Baking website. I tweaked that recipe by adding chopped dried cherries and subbing vanilla bean paste for the vanilla extract.
Both tasted great. My favorite was the cherry vanilla, Sydney loved the almond, John loved them both equally, so I guess it’s a tie. The Joy of Baking was definitely easier to work with.
I also dipped some of both recipes in chocolate and while they were tasty, I felt it was too strong for these cookies. I wish I had some to share, but I think if I tried to take them out of this house, my husband might divorce me.
Vanilla Cherry Shortbread
(adapted from The Joy of Baking)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (better butter = better flavor)
- 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract (I use vanilla bean paste for the visible flecks of vanilla)
- 1/2 cup of dried cherries, cut into small pieces
Preheat oven to 350∘F with the rack in the middle of the oven.
In a separate bowl, whisk flour and salt, set aside.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth (about 1 minute). Add the sugar and beat until smooth (about 2 minutes). Beat in the vanilla paste. Gently stir in the flour mixture just until incorporated. Add chopped cherries and mix until incorporated. Flatten the dough into a disk shape, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill the dough for at least an hour.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thick. Cut into rounds or whatever shape you wish using a lightly floured cookie cutter. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheet and place in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. This will firm up the dough so the cookies will maintain their shape when baked. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly brown (it is important to achieve the light brown color because it makes the butter flavor more pronounced). Cool on rack.
Shortbread will keep in an airtight container for about a week or frozen for several months.
Makes about 20 cookies.
(adapted from Ina Garten)
- 3/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling (I use sanding sugar for sprinkling)
- 1 tsp pure almond extract
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until they are just combined. Add the almond extract. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.
Roll the dough 1/2-inch thick and cut into desired shape. Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature.
If you’d like yours dipped in chocolate, melt the chocolate in a double boiler (a glass bowl over a pan of simmering water. Make sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl and that there is absolutely no water in the inside of the bowl). Stir the chocolate as it melts, then place it on a plate and place each cookie in the shallow chocolate, flat side down, gently remove and place upside down on parchment paper to cool. You can speed this up by placing dipped cookies in the refrigerator.