We’re going to ease into cookie baking this year with some Spiced Shortbread.
The truth is…there’s a million things that I want to make for you and only a very short time to share them and, of course, make them. So, I’ve had to edit. This is the problem I have every year when making my list for Christmas baking. By the time I get to 16 choices, my husband is advising me to shorten the list. Many of them I’ve blogged about, but every year there are other cookies that I want to make, like shortbread. I think I’ve only made it a couple of times for my cookie trays.
I’m not gonna lie, I’m already a little burned out on baking after testing a bunch of dessert recipes for Thanksgiving (ones that weren’t for the blog) and then pulling off some more sweets for a birthday party. Actually, I’m not burned out on baking at all, but I’m a little over all the splurging going on over here. And the season has only just begun! I’ve really been more in the mood for salad and fruit than sweet treats. That’s what back to back Thanksgiving and birthday celebrations will get you. Basically my head is all “Ooh, let’s make this!” and “Ooh, let’s make that!” My body is all, “Ooh, roasted veggies! Crisp salads! Juicy fruits!” (Lucky for you, my head is the one managing this blog :)
Back to the cookies…You know what’s wonderful about shortbread? I mean, aside from the fact that it’s buttery and delicious and perfect with a nice hot cup of tea? Oh, and that it’s so amazingly delicious as a crust for treats like Millionaire Magic Bars and Pumpkin Pie Shortbread Bars? It’s EASY! Easy peasy! And that’s just what the doctor ordered as life begins to go into over drive with all of the holiday craziness of the next few weeks.
But Spiced Shortbread? Now we’ve got the ease of shortbread with warm spices perfectly suited to the season. I used Vietnamese Cinnamon, Chinese ginger and your standard grocery store ground cloves. I wanted this shortbread to have a nice warmth, but not be mistaken for gingerbread or snickerdoodles.
I tested this recipe a couple of times, changing flour and spice ratios and types of sugar used. The first batch was well received by my kids, but my husband was “meh.” He said, “You know I’m not a fan of gingerbread cookies.” Of course, this isn’t a gingerbread cookie, nor does it taste like one. Ugh! I thought…he’s not going to be any help. Although, I wasn’t in love with the first batch either. I didn’t think there was enough spice and the texture was off.
So, I made a second batch and switched a few things around. I asked him to test the second batch. Clearly, he wasn’t thrilled to do so, but hey, he’s always willing to help out (unless it involves pickles or mustard. Then, all bets are off.) The changes I made were a success! I sampled them and thought they were really, really good. My husband said they were “so much better” than the first batch. (Which means they’re pretty wonderful for my spice cookie lovin’ friends out there.) In fact, he said, if he had a cup of coffee, he’d be coming back for a few more. He loved the spice, the texture and the flavor. #slamdunk
These babies are another one bowl recipe. Just whisk up the spices with the flour and confectioner’s sugar. Confectioner’s sugar will give you a different texture than regular sugar. (I actually used brown sugar in the first batch but really preferred the result using the confectioner’s sugar. It’s not a big switch, but there’s some cornstarch in confectioner’s sugar and it just gives a slightly richer texture.)
Once you’ve whisked your dry ingredients, cut in the cold butter with a pastry cutter or two knives. You can even use a fork to help mash it into the flour. Just keep working the butter in until you have a crumbly, sandy mixture. (The photo above is at the beginning of the process; you’ll keep cutting the butter in so that there’s no chunks like the ones you see above.)
Now it’s time use your hands. You’ll squeeze the flour mixture together and it will clump together. You’ll drop the clump and squeeze another part of the flour mixture. You’ll start to think that I’m crazy and that this mixture is too dry to hold together, but stick with it. Become one with the dough. It doesn’t take too long and it doesn’t require herculean strength. It took me about 50-60 squeezes to get it all to come together. The warmth of your hands softens the butter and before you know it, you’ll have a ball of cookie dough.
Place the ball of dough onto an ungreased baking sheet and using a rolling pin, roll into an 8″ circle. Or use your hand and press it into an 8″ circle. You’ll have some ragged edges. No worries. They’re going to get crimped.
Use your finger tips or your knuckles to crimp the edges. I didn’t get a photo of it, but I used my knuckles. It was easier than my finger tips since the dough was flat to the pan. You can shape the edge any way you want to. You can even keep it smooth and just push the ragged edges together. I like the edge to be just a bit thicker than the rest, so I crimp.
Once you’ve shaped your edges, use a sharp knife to cut the circle into 16 slices. Don’t separate them. You’ll cut them again using those lines as a guide when it comes out of the oven. Use a fork to “dock” the dough. This poking of the dough will help keep it from bubbling up while baking.
Once it is just starting to get golden around the edges and the center is set, it’s done. What emerges is a crisp but tender wedge of shortbread. Your level of crisp to tender will depend upon how thick you roll your dough and how long you bake it. The spices are definitely present, but not overpowering. The cookie is not super sweet, though possibly just a hint more than traditional. I thought that bit of extra sweetness helped bring out the flavor of the spices.
I love this Spiced Shortbread! It’s kind of rustic, warm and cozy. It’s the perfect antidote to the hustle and bustle of the season. And…I finally made a spice cookie that my husband actually enjoys. #pigsfly
So there’s that :)