Ever cook something for the first time and then wonder, “Why in the world haven’t I been making this all along!?” That’s how I feel about shortbread. For some reason, I’ve never made shortbread cookies until this year – but now, I’m completely hooked. I’m ashamed to say that I’ve quickly baked (and eaten) enough of these buttery, sweet, crumbly cookies to make up for all the years they’ve been missing from my kitchen.
For this recipe, there are five basic ingredients. That’s it – just five! And you most likely already have them in your pantry: butter, sugar, vanilla, flour and salt. I added orange zest and dried cranberries, but you can experiment with what you have readily available. Whip up a batch with chocolate chips, add your favorite spices (cardamom and clove are my current faves) or throw in different kinds of nuts. You can even get creative and try different cookie and beverage pairings – like a bold coffee with dark chocolate shortbread or rooibos tea alongside my cranberry version below.
Cranberry-Orange Shortbread Cookies
Makes about 2 dozen cookies
Adapted from Ina Garten
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
½ to ¾ cup dried cranberries
Additional sugar for sprinkling
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, mix together the butter and sugar on medium speed until combined. Mix in the vanilla along with two teaspoons of water.
2. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, salt, ground ginger and orange zest. With the mixer on low, slowly pour the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Mix until ingredients are fully incorporated. Pour in the dried cranberries and stir with a spatula until evenly distributed.
3. Place the dough on a floured surface and form into a log shape. Wrap the log in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap the dough and slice it into about ½ inch slices. Place cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle on a little bit of coarse sugar (such as turbinado). Bake for 22-25 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies turn golden brown.
5. Remove from the oven and allow cookies to cool on a wire rack. Serve and enjoy!