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Holiday Shortbread Cookies

Photography by Meredith Steele

This classic soft-textured cookie is sweet and buttery. Have fun with it and make thumbprint or sandwich cookies with your favorite local preserves.

Makes 28 cookies

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
Jam or preserves (see note)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or an electric hand mixer, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. While on low speed, add the flour mixture and mix until just combined; be careful not to overmix.

Classic Shortbread Cookies—Using a spoon, scoop out 1 large tablespoon of dough, roll into a ball and place on baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between the balls. Gently flatten out the dough with a cookie stamp or the bottom of a glass. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 30 minutes or up to 6 hours before baking.

Thumbprint Cookies—Using a spoon, scoop out 1 large tablespoon of dough, roll into a ball and place on baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between the balls. Gently create a well in the middle of each dough ball with your thumb. Fill the well with a teaspoon of jam or preserves. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 30 minutes or up to 6 hours before baking.

Sandwich Cookies—Divide the mixture in half. Working with one half at a time, place the dough on a large piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap and top with another sheet of paper or wrap. With a rolling pin, roll the dough to ¼-inch thick. Lay the dough flat in the refrigerator and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 6 hours. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Using a 2- to 3-inch wide cookie cutter, cut out shapes from the dough and transfer to the prepared baking sheets. On half of the cookies create “windows” by cutting out shapes in the middle of each cookie using a smaller cookie cutter.

Spread a small spoonful of jam in the middle of the uncut cookies and top with the cookies with the “windows.” You can reroll the dough scraps and repeat this process or create classic shortbread or thumbprint cookies.

Bake cookies 1 sheet at a time (keeping the remaining sheet refrigerated) for 15 minutes, or until the edges begin to turn golden. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.

Note: The jam or preserves will thicken when the cookies bake. Don’t use jelly; it’s not sturdy enough.

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