Hand me a platter of Christmas cookies, and I'll always choose the plain old shortbread. It's just the best.
Shortbread's perfection lies in its simplicity. Well, that's not entirely true... who are we kidding? It's perfection lies in it's butter content.
Every year around this time, I start baking shortbread. I revisit favourite old recipes (like this one and this one), and I always try a few new ones too... just to make sure I'm not missing out on anything spectacular.
There are literally millions of shortbread recipes out there... some make a crispier, snappier cookie (typically made with rice flour), others have more of a sandy texture (the French sablés), while others are softer, more melt-in-your-mouth kind of thing (typically made with cornstarch). And you know what? I love them all. I truly do. Give me a coffee and a shortbread cookie and some lightly falling snow, and I will have had a good day.
So I used a reliable (and fantastic) shortbread recipe as a base (from San Francisco's Tartine bakery), and I threw at it a bold mix of new holiday spices (cardamom, lots of freshly ground black pepper, ginger & cinnamon)... and the results were otherworldly!
How to describe them?
Imagine a traditional Scottish shortbread lass marrying a classic gingerbread man, and them having a rebellious lovechild who refused to conform, and who always challenged the status quo. That's this cookie. It's dramatic like that ;)
These shortbread cookies are delicately soft and melt in your mouth. They are spiced just enough.... enough to excite your palate and spark your brain to try and decipher the unique blend of flavours, but not overly spiced so as to drown out that fundamental buttery goodness that makes shortbread, well shortbread.
And if you already have a favourite shortbread recipe that you are loyal to and don't feel like betraying, then I'd encourage you to try adding this spice blend to them. It'll blow your mind :)
Read on for the details....
Modern Day Holiday Spice Shortbread Cookies
1 cup + 2 tbsp (9 oz/255 g) unsalted butter, softened/room temperature
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup (70g) granulated sugar
1 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp (9oz/255 g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp (75 gram) cornstarch
1/2 tsp powdered ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
Extra 1/4 cup granulated sugar (or coarse sanding sugar) for topping (don't skip this!)
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 6-by-13-inch glass baking dish.
- Mix the butter (it should be very soft) and salt very well, then mix in the sugar
- In another bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch and spices.
- Mix the flour mixture into the butter until a smooth dough forms.
- Press the dough evenly into the prepared baking dish (to max 2/3 inch thickness).
- Bake until lightly golden, about 30 minutes. Remove shortbread from the oven and sprinkle the additional 1/4 cup of granulated sugar on top (tilt the dish to spread it evenly around), then allow the shortbread to cool in it's baking dish for about 5 minutes before slicing.
- While the shortbread is still warm, use a sharp knife to slice into rectangles (or squares), but leave them in their baking dish to cool completely before removing them with a thin offset spatula.
Cookies keep in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.