Baked Occasionally, desserts

Baked, Occasionally: whipped shortbread cookies (for those holiday cookie trays.)

whipped shortbread cookies. | a periodic table

You know what makes holiday cookies great? Variety, general appeal, and ease of use. I don’t mean that last one as “look how easy it is to eat these bad mamma-jammas,” I mean that cookies on a cookie tray need to be – for the most part – extremely easy to make.

Or else it’s just no fun, right? Fussy cookies are for other times of the year, or maybe you compromise and include one fussy one in a sea of easy ones, but really, you need to keep it simple if you want to enjoy your holiday too.

I have lots of trays to make this year: these little cookies from Baked Occasions will be front and center. They’re a crowd favorite, each batch makes about 70 cookies, and from beginning (no ingredients out but butter) to when it’s time to scoop, the whole process takes under 6 minutes – not kidding, I timed myself.

whipped shortbread cookies. | a periodic table

These are shortbread cookies, straight up; the batter is velvety and so easy to scoop, and the little pecan tops make it look like you put the effort in when you didn’t – bonus. The oven toasts the pecans perfectly, so that when they’re done, you have this lovely little hit of warm pecan flavor, which gives the shortbread a bit more nutty depth. Also, these are less crumbly than traditional shortbread, so none of your friends will get unsightly crumbs in their holiday sweaters.

Because this is our last Baked Occasionally series post (rules are rules – when Natalie and I do joint projects, they’re for one year and one year only), we thought we’d each make a different cookie for you – you know, in case you needed a few suggestions for giftable cookies versus just one. Her pick was no surprise to me, b/c we’re tight: she went straight for the Peanut Butter Butterscotch Cookies, and I don’t blame her for one minute. I can’t wait to try them, actually: if I’m going to eat a peanut butter cookie, it better scream peanut butter from the rooftops, salty and sweet and dense and perfect; nothing less will do. These sound like they’d hit every one of those goals easily: head over to Natalie’s post to see how she liked them.

whipped shortbread cookies. | a periodic table

Cheers! Now get on those cookie trays, even if it’s just thinking through them in your head this week.

Adapted from Baked Occasions: Desserts for Leisure Activities, Holidays, and Informal Celebrations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito.

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 pound (4 sticks, I know) unsalted butter, softened but cool
  • 1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped (psst: get Trader Joe’s Raw Pecan Pieces and you won’t even have to do anything!)

*and if you’re not making cookies en masse, but rather just for yourself, or if you just want to faint at the mere reading of “4 sticks of butter,” this recipe is easily halved.

Make those whippy shortbreads:

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line two rimless baking sheets with parchment paper, or if you’re like me, just line one and do this in batches.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, confectioners’ sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until it is lump-free and smooth, 2-3 minutes.

Turn the mixer to low, and slowly stream in the dry ingredients until combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Mix again for 10 seconds.

Using a small ice-cream scoop with a release mechanism (I recommend the “melon ball” size), scoop out the cookie dough by heaping tablespoons onto the prepared sheets about ½ inch apart. Once all the cookies have been scooped, press down on each one with the backside of a spoon to form a little flat dip.

Press a few pecan pieces into the top of each cookie. Bake until the bottoms of the cookies start to turn a light brown, 10 to 13 minutes. Transfer the sheets to cooling racks for about 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to the racks to cool completely.

 Storing these is pretty awesome too: you can keep them sealed at room temperature for up to a week (making them fabulous for travel), but they freeze perfectly too, with no loss in structural integrity. Freeze them – sealed properly to keep weird flavors out and good flavors in – for up to 1 month.


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  • Reply John/Kitchen Riffs December 5, 2016 at 8:15 pm

    Love shortbread anything, but cookies are the best. And pecans work so well with them — great combo of flavors. Thanks!

  • Reply Ashley December 8, 2016 at 4:21 pm

    I want to eat these right now, and I don’t care about the butter (while I’m eating them…..later, yes…but not while eating)!

    I’m still pouring through books and expanding my reference list of Christmas baked goods. Someday soon I really ought to pick a few and make them 🙂

  • Reply Ala December 22, 2016 at 8:53 pm

    I agree completely with your rules for a cookie tray: variety and ease are key! I love shortbread during the holiday season so much because it’s so easy to whip together, and I can’t wait to give this version a shot (pecans on top, yes please!). Cheers and happiest of holidays~!

    • Reply shannon March 22, 2017 at 10:59 am

      Happiest of holidays to you too, Ala! Even though it’s clearly past the holidays as i’m replying to this very sweet comment of yours. 🙂 Hope you had a lovely holiday season and are having a fabulous springtime so far. thanks for writing!

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