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Spiced Shortbread

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We’re going to ease into cookie baking this year with some Spiced Shortbread.

Three pieces of Spiced Shortbread on a white plate with by themerchantbaker.com

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.

Freshly baked Spiced Shortbread on a cooling rack by themerchantbaker.com

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 :)

Close up side view of freshly baked Spiced Shortbread on a cooling rack by themerchantbaker.com

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.

An overhead view of the spices ginger cinnamon and cloves that will go in to making Spiced Shortbread by themerchantbaker.com

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.

Spiced Shortbread on a cooling rack dusted with powdered sugar by themerchantbaker.com

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.)

Cutting butter into flour in a white bowl to make Spiced Shortbread by themerchantbaker.com

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.)A ball of raw dough in a bowl to make Spiced Shortbread by themerchantbaker.com

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.

Raw dough rolled flat on a baking sheet to make Spiced Shortbread by themerchantbaker.com

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.

Raw dough in a circled shape with pinched edges, pressed with a fork and cut crosswise on a baking sheet to make Spiced Shortbread by themerchantbaker.com

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.

Cutting pizza like shapes from a freshly baked circle of Spiced Shortbread by themerchantbaker.com

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.

An overhead view of the still connected circle of freshly baked Spiced Shortbread by themerchantbaker.com

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

Three pieces of Spiced Shortbread on a white plate dusted with powdered sugar by themerchantbaker.com

So there’s that :)

 

Spiced Shortbread

Servings 16 wedges

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup salted butter, cold (1 stick)
  • Confectioner's sugar for topping

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, confectioner's sugar and all of the spices until combined.
  3. Cut the cold butter into small pieces, then add it to the flour mixture.
  4. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the flour looks crumbly. This will take a couple of minutes.
  5. Once the butter is cut in and looks sandy, use your hand to squeeze the powdery mixture together. It will seem too dry to ever hold together, but just keep squeezing handfuls together and flipping the dough over to catch more dry pieces until the mixture comes together in a ball.The warmth of your hands will soften the butter and help it to bind to the flour mixture. It may take 50-60 squeezes. Just keep working it until there are no more dry bits in the bowl and it has come together.
  6. Place the ball of dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet and pat or roll the dough into an 8" circle. (Mine was a little bigger than 8".) Lightly flour your rolling pin or hands if your dough is sticking. You'll have some ragged edges. They will be taken care of in the next step.
  7. Using your finger tips or knuckles, crimp the edges, forming a fluted edge.
  8. Using a sharp knife, cut the circle into 16 wedges, but do not separate them.
  9. Use a fork to poke holes all over the dough. This is called, "docking", and it helps keep the dough from bubbling up while it bakes.
  10. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until the edges are just beginning to turn golden and the center looks set.
  11. Remove from the oven. With a sharp knife, cut the shortbread into wedges, using the cuts you made before baking as a guide. Allow to cool for 5 minutes then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.
  12. Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar, if desired.

Recipe Notes

*Store cookies in an airtight container for up to 3 days or freeze for 2-3 months.

*As always, measure your flour correctly! I use the spoon and sweep method. Fluff the flour, spoon it into your measuring cup and use a knife to sweep across the top to level it.

*If crimping with your knuckles seems too complicated, use the outside edge of your hands to coax the ragged edges into a smooth edge. Then, use a fork with the tines pointing straight down, push the edge of the dough in slightly to create a ridged edge. This is not like pressing the dough flat with the fork, because the fork is vertical. You're just using the tines of the fork to crimp up a decorative edge. Think of your fork as a snow p

low and the dough as your snow :) You could also use the edge of a butter knife or a spoon as your "plow."

*This makes a lightly sweetened shortbread. If you want it less sweet, reduce sugar to 1/3 cup. If you want it sweeter, you can add another 2 Tablespoons of confectioner's sugar or drizzle a glaze over them, made of confectioner's sugar mixed with water or milk, and a splash of vanilla.

The Merchant Baker Copyright © 2016

Holiday Baking 2016
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