12 Days of Christmas Day 1: Spice Shortbread
Sorry for the short absence from my blog, friends! I promise it’ll be worthwhile. I’m doing a “12 days of Christmas” recipes series for you! So starting today and through December 24, I’ll have a new recipe for you every day. Today, we’re going to start with a really simple shortbread, with a fantastic Christmassey twist.
I’ve always loved to cook, but my love for baking started in high school when I was given a copy of a cute little cookbook called “The Cookie Book”, and it claimed it had every cookie recipe you’ll ever need. I flipped through it often, but only tried a handful of the recipes. The one that I found myself returning to over and over was the shortbread. I just couldn’t believe how 4 simple ingredients could make something so delicious. And it takes on other flavors so well. I was constantly coming up with different variations.
But after a while I phased out of them. I don’t really know how, but I did. Maybe because I use sugar so infrequently now? Either way, I had a hankering for some shortbread the other night, and had a sudden lightbulb moment when I remembered I could add the warm but vibrant spices that you usually associate with gingerbread. Why not, right? Oh, and it was so worth it. I decided in order to lift the dense texture and otherwise heavy flavors, I would use fresh ginger and orange zest and juice. I wanted to be careful with the juice because shortbread doesn’t traditionally have any water in it, but a little squeeze from half and orange was just enough flavor. And shaping it in the traditional log shape in a square cake pan worked like a charm.
This truly is so simple, I bet you could throw it together right now. And you seriously won’t regret it.
- 2 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg**
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
- juice of 1/2 an orange
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cups pure cane sugar*
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8x8 square cake pan with two pieces of either foil or parchment paper***.
- In a medium bowl, combine the flour, spices, and salt. Whisk to combine.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, cream the butter and sugar until pale in color and smooth. Add the flour and mix until just combined. The dough will look like small pebbles and should combine like playdough when pressed together. Do not over mix.
- Squeeze the dough together into a large ball and place into the middle of the prepared cake pan. Carefully press the dough to make and even layer, paying attention to the corners. Score the dough where you want the individual cookies to be. I like to mark 2 rows of 6.
- Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes, until the edges are just starting to brown, and the middle still feels soft to the touch. Immediately take the blunt side of a skewer or the thinner side of a chopstick and poke 3~5 holes down the center of the length of each cookie, all the way to the bottom. Using a knife or bench scraper, cut the scored lines to the bottom. Let cool completely before serving.
- * If using organic sugar, I recommend pulsing it in a food processor or high speed blender a few times to break up the granules. The sugar will cream into the butter with more ease if they're smaller to begin with. Not necessary, but will result in a smoother dough.
- **I always buy whole nutmeg and grate it on a microplane grater. The flavor is more distinct. Often, pre-ground nutmeg has a mustiness to it.
- ***I Like to cut the pieces to about 8x14+ inches if possible. That way you can place them in the pan perpendicular to each other, folded to fit into the corners, with a little overhang for easy removal.
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