Shortbread all dressed up for the holidays

redvelvetshortbread

There is always some kind of shortbread on my Christmas cookie platter. They’re also usually the easiest cookie to make. A couple years ago, I made pecan fingers, but last year I opted to make these Red Velvet Shortbread Cookies. They were almost as easy as regular shortbread, but dolled up for the holidays by a hint of chocolate, red coloring, and a white chocolate drizzle. They were small, too, so they were perfect for people looking to nibble on treats during Christmas eve.

If you’re a fan of red velvet—as many people are—give this one a shot. You won’t be disappointed.

Ingredients
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, cut up
1 tablespoon red food coloring
3 ounces white chocolate (with cocoa butter), coarsely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons shortening

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a food processor, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Cover and process with on/off turns until combined. Add butter and red food coloring. Cover and process with on/off pulses until mixture starts to cling. (If you do not have a food processor, cut in the butter and add food coloring, then knead until mixture resembles fine crumbs.) Transfer to a large bowl. Form mixture into a ball and knead until smooth.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to a 1/2-inch thickness. Using a floured 1-1/2-inch round cutter, cut out dough. Place cutouts 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until centers are set. Transfer cookies to a wire rack; let cool.

In a heavy small saucepan, cook and stir white chocolate and shortening over low heat, until melted and smooth. Drizzle cookies with melted white chocolate. Let stand until white chocolate is set.

Window cookies worth the work

If you’re a fan of jam in your cookies, this one is for you. Window cookies are the last item in my cookie countdown to Christmas. They require a bit of time and effort, but they’re beautiful. They’re worth it.

I found the recipe on the Better Homes and Gardens website. They’re a sandwich cookie, so be conscious of the thickness of the cookies when you roll out the dough. The recipe calls for 1/4-inch thickness, but I found that to be a little too thick once I made the sandwich.

You can make them your own by adding chopped nuts to the batter or using a different kind of jam. You can use any cookie cutter shape to make the design in the top cookie, too. I used a snowflake cutter and really liked how they looked. The jam and nuts complemented each other well, and I dusted mine with a bit of powdered sugar to finish them.

Make it fun, make them yours and have a Merry Christmas.

Ingredients
1 cup blanched almonds, toasted and chopped
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup chopped hazelnuts or almonds (optional)
3/4 cup apricot jam

In a food processor, combine almonds and the 1 tablespoon sugar. Cover and process until nuts are finely ground. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the 2/3 cup sugar. Beat until combined, scraping bowl occasionally. Add the ground almonds, the egg, egg yolk, salt, vanilla, almond extract, and nutmeg, beating on low speed until combined. Beat in flour until combined. If adding nuts, combine them into the dough.

Divide dough into four portions. Cover and chill about 2 hours or until dough is easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Between waxed paper or parchment paper, roll out one of the dough portions to about a 1/4-inch thickness. Peel off top sheet of paper. Using a fluted 2- to 3-inch cookie cutter, cut out dough. Place dough cutouts 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Using a fluted 1-inch cookie cutter, cut out centers from half of the dough cutouts.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until tops are a pale golden brown. Cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool. Repeat with the remaining dough portions.

Spread 1 slightly rounded teaspoon of the jam in the center of each whole cookie. Top with the cutout cookies, flat sides down, pressing lightly together.

Spicing up the Christmas cookie assortment

chaicookies

I’m in the middle of my baking test runs, the annual tradition of testing out new recipes to make for Christmas Eve. So far I’ve tried cherry shortbread dipped in chocolate, chocolate mocha sandwich cookies, chocolate gingerbread and chai spice cookies.

I came across the chai spice cookies on Better Homes and Gardens a month or two ago and bookmarked it as a holiday baking idea. I regularly enjoy Bigelow’s Vanilla Chai at work, but had never thought to use it in a cookie. I was on the hunt for a new spice cookie for the assortment this year and this looked like a promising option.

Whenever I test a recipe, I only make a half batch so, in case I don’t like it, I’m not stuck with a lot of it. I should have made a whole batch of these chai cookies. They were like shortbread with chai thrown in, topped with a drizzle of icing. But chai isn’t for everyone, so I took it to work to gauge the reaction to the cookies. My coworkers loved them.

Better Home and Gardens had this labeled as one of its newest recipes. They hit it out of the park. These will be making an appearance on my tray of Christmas cookies this year. I hope they’re as well-received by my family as they were at work.

Ingredients
2 spiced chai-flavored tea bags
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons molasses
1 recipe Powdered Sugar Icing (see recipe below)

Remove tea bag contents (3 teaspoons); discard bags. In medium bowl combine tea, flour, and
pumpkin pie spice; set aside.

In large mixing bowl beat butter on medium to high 30 seconds. Add sugar; beat until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks and molasses. Beat in as much of the flour mixture as you can; stir in remaining flour. Divide dough in half. Cover and refrigerate about 3 hours or until easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper. On lightly floured surface, roll half of the dough at a time until 1/4-inch thickness. Cut dough with 4-inch gingerbread girl cutters.

Bake 12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool on cookie sheets 2 minutes. Transfer to rack to cool completely. Decorate with Powdered Sugar Icing. Makes 18 to 20 cookies.

Powdered Sugar Icing
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
3-4 teaspoons milk

In a small bowl stir together powdered sugar, vanilla or almond extract, and enough milk (3 to 4 teaspoons) to make icing drizzling consistency.