As I mentioned last year, I make a lot of biscotti around the holidays. This year’s biscotti gifts have been baked, wrapped, and mailed. But when it came time to make my own stash of Christmas cookies, I decided to branch out a little.
For me, 2011 is the year of the shortbread. My mother has always loved short-style cookies (So we’re on the same page, “short” cookies are those that use butter and flour but no eggs.), but as a kid I perpetually turned my nose up at them. I preferred sugar cookies, bar cookies with lots of chocolate, anything chewy, gooey, and delicious. A drier, crispier shortbread was never what I was looking for.
But now that my taste buds and I have both grown up, I’ve finally awoken to the appeal of shortbreads. And now I think they’re a perfect holiday cookie. Buttery and decadent yet light and crisp, they’re the ideal partner for a hot beverage on any occasion this time of year.
On my cookie plate pictured above are 36-hour chocolate chip cookies (this time with the sea salt topping!), the only non-shortbread selection; caramel-crumb bars, a shortbread based bar cookie topped with caramel that Saveur alerted me to earlier this month; and an oldie-but-goodie and my mom’s personal favorite, snowballs, which are nutty shortbread cookies rolled in powdered sugar.
(If you’re keeping count, I’ve also made chocolate-almond biscotti and hazelnut truffles to give as gifts. The truffle recipe will be shared later.)
½ cup vegetable shortening
½ cup butter
½ cup powdered sugar, plus extra for coating
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
½ cup pecans, pulsed in a food processor to chop finely
2 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
Combine shortening, butter, sugar, extracts, and pecans in the bowl of a stand mixer or with a hand-held mixer; mix until creamy. Add flour and salt and mix until flour is just incorporated. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill several hours or overnight.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 325 degrees. Roll dough in tiny balls and place on a cookie sheet (you can line it with parchment for easier clean-up). Bake for 25-30 minutes. Meanwhile, pour additional powdered sugar into a small bowl. When cookies come out of the oven, immediately remove from cookie sheet and roll in the powdered sugar in the bowl. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Note: the powdered sugar coating does not set on the cookie until it is completely cool. Avoid moving cookies until they have cooled so as to not transfer the coating from the cookie.