Buttery, melt-in-your-mouth goodness. Those words perfectly capture the essence of this recipe – [regardless of whatever else I write after this point]. Let me warn you, this recipe uses butter unapologetically. There’s no shame or judgment. But not just any butter. Am talking best-in-class grass fed, real butter. I kinda enjoy seeing the surprise/bewilderment in people’s faces when I talk to them about how healthy fats & butter are not the enemy. It was white sugar ALL along. I believe in butter. It’s so much better for you than artificial substitutes that are one chemical compound away from being commercial plastic. I think Paula Deen would agree with me. If the cows your dairy comes from are hormone & antibiotic free, I will feed it to my family & recommend it to yours. It’s that simple.
Let’s talk a bit about shortbread, shall we? Shortbread is denser & far more buttery than your traditional Christmas sugar cookie. I grew up with a particular fondness (AKA addiction) to Walkers Scottish shortbread & Danish Butter Cookies. I would meticulously ensure I was available to make “night trips” to the grocery store with my father, so I could snatch a coveted, metallic blue box of the most perfect, imported little cookies.
Have I ever shared with you guys that my father goes to the grocery store every other day, if not every single day? It’s a compulsion at its finest. (Which I have seemingly happened to inherit)… I can’t put my finger on what drives him to go there every day. He’s incredibly organized and no stranger to grocery lists. My dad’s a very smart man who speaks 4 languages fluently & knows everything you could possibly know about world history & cars inside out. But ever since I can remember, he’s the one doing our grocery haul & teaching me how to know when each type of fruit or vegetable is ready/ripe. He takes his sweet time to shop. Oh yes, it’s an excursion. You’re never back in an hour. Never. All cashiers know him by name & greet him cheerfully.
Looking back; having an avid cook as a mother & a father who’s obsessed with all things food, it’s not hard at all to see how I ended up writing this blog. It would be hard to explain if I had not interest in food whatsoever. When I told him about my new blogging project, there weren’t any questions. Just steady encouragement.
This recipe is amazing because of its simplicity. I substituted white sugar with raw cane sugar. I tried one batch with coconut sugar, but it no longer had that unique shortbread taste & quality. Raw cane sugar was absolutely perfect & a much healthier alternative to refined white sugar. I also substituted white flour in favor of organic, unbleached all-purpose flour. What’s better about unbleached flour? It hasn’t been exposed to nearly as many chemicals as bleached flour i.e. chlorine & peroxide. I have baked a LOT in my short lifespan. Unbleached flour is fantastic for cookies, but I would not recommend it for cakes. Why? It gives them a harder sort of texture. I like my cakes fluffy & moist, thank you very much.
So yes, this recipe isn’t exactly gluten-free by design, but it now provides a gluten-free & vegan option. This was developed for the “Little Hands” in my life, and they don’t adhere to my gluten-free lifestyle, as I have shared with you earlier on in the blog. But these cookies are made with wholesome & unprocessed ingredients; and I’m all about giving my family real food that is both; nourishing & tastes great. I hope you enjoy them with a cup of tea, coffee or your favorite hot chocolate as much as they all do. More importantly than what you enjoy them with, carve out the time and enjoy them with those you love.
Christmas Shortbread Cookies
- 2 1/4 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour OR a good quality all-purpose gluten-free flour blend
- 1 cup of softened grass-fed butter (almost melted) I use Rolling Meadow Dairy & love it! For vegan options, try using Earth Balance spread.
- 1/2 cup of raw cane sugar OR 1/3 cup pure maple syrup for unrefined sweeteners
- pinch of sea salt
- 1-2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract. Madagascar vanilla is the best quality one!
- a handful of chopped dry cranberries, chocolate chips, pistachios or slivered almonds (optional)
For Snow-Powder Icing Mix
- 2 tbsp of icing sugar
- 2 tbsp of arrowroot flour
- Preheat your oven to 350F & line a baking sheet with parchment paper
- Cream butter and raw sugar together in a small saucepan over low heat & whisk well to integrate until smooth OR use an electric stand or handheld mixer, the latter always does a much better job. Mix until smooth, usually takes about 2 mins. Add the vanilla extract & mix well.
- Sift the flour into a large bowl, add a pinch of sea salt & mix. Slowly incorporate the dry mixture into the creamed sugar & butter bowl, mixing as you go.
- You know the shortbread dough is good-to-go when it stops sticking to your hands as you’re kneading it. If it feels crumbly, add about 1 tbsp of water & shape into a ball. For best results, chill the dough in the fridge for about an hour before rolling it.
- I use a large flat surface (my kitchen table) and sprinkle some flour & cut two sheets of parchment paper.
- I divide the dough ball into 2 or 3 sections, grab a rolling pin & some festive cookie cutters.
- Roll out into a sheet that’s about 1/4 inch thick & use the cookie cutters to cut shapes & later transfer them to the baking sheet. Reuse & re-roll leftover dough until you’ve finished the batch. Tip to roll out the dough: I lay out a parchment paper sheet over the table, then the dough, then another sheet of parchment over the dough. I then use the rolling pin above the parchment surface to flatten & extend the dough.
- Bake at 350F for about 8-10 minutes until edges are golden. All ovens vary. I like to check cookies at the 8 minute mark.
- Allow them to cool on a rack while you clear the baking sheet for the second batch.
- Once cooled, dust with icing sugar & arrowroot flour mixture. I added arrowroot flour to minimize the amount of white sugar and create the same powdery effect.
recipe adapted from The Joy Of Baking