Basic Shortbread Cookies
- 1 cup butter, softened $
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract $
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Wax and parchment paper
1. Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating until smooth. Stir in vanilla and almond extracts until blended.
2. Stir together flour and next 2 ingredients. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating at low speed until blended.
3. Divide dough in half; flatten each into a disk. Roll each disk to 1/4-inch thickness between 2 sheets of wax paper. Transfer dough, in wax paper, to a baking sheet; chill 1 hour.
4. Preheat oven to 350°. Working with 1 portion of dough at a time, remove top wax paper; cut into 2 1/2- x 3/4-inch rectangles, rerolling dough scraps once. Place 1 inch apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets.
5. Bake at 350° for 12 to 14 minutes or until edges are golden. Cool on baking sheets 1 minute; transfer to wire racks. Cool completely. Store in airtight containers.
Prepare recipe as directed. Microwave 3/4 cup dark chocolate morsels in a microwave-safe bowl at HIGH 1 1/2 minutes or until melted and smooth, stirring every 30 seconds. Drizzle over cookies. Sprinkle 12 crushed hard peppermint candies over cookies. Let stand until firm.
Makes 4 dozen.
Bourbon-Pecan Snowflakes Prepare recipe through Step 2, omitting almond extract, adding 1 cup chopped toasted pecans and 4 Tbsp. bourbon with vanilla in Step 1, and increasing flour to 2 1/2 cups. Proceed as directed, cutting dough with a 3-inch snowflake-shaped cutter and increasing bake time to 14 to 16 minutes. Makes 2 1/2 dozen
Cinnamon-Orange Squares Prepare recipe through Step 2, omitting vanilla and almond extracts, increasing flour to 2 1/4 cups, and adding 2 Tbsp. orange zest, 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg to flour mixture in Step 2. Proceed as directed through Step 4, cutting with a 2-inch square cutter. Stir together 1 Tbsp. sugar and 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon, and sprinkle mixture over cookies. Bake and cool as directed. Makes 3 dozen.
Sweet Potato-Marshmallow Sandwich Cookies Prepare recipe through Step 2, omitting almond extract, adding 3/4 cup canned sweet potato puree with vanilla in Step 1, increasing flour to 2 1/2 cups, and adding 1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg, 3/4 tsp. ground cardamom, 1/2 tsp. ground ginger, and 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon to flour mixture in Step 2. Proceed as directed, cutting with a 2-inch round cutter and sprinkling with 1 Tbsp. Demerara sugar before baking. Beat 1/2 cup marshmallow crème and 1/2 cup butter, softened, with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer at medium speed 2 minutes or until smooth; gradually add 2 cups powdered sugar. Add 1 1/4 tsp. meringue powder, and beat at high speed 2 minutes or until fluffy. Stir in 1 tsp. vanilla extract. Spread about 2 tsp. mixture between cooled shortbread rounds to form sandwiches. Makes 2 1/2 dozen.
Key Lime Stars Prepare recipe through Step 2, omitting vanilla and almond extracts, adding 1 Tbsp. Key lime zest and 2 Tbsp. Key lime juice after sugar in Step 1, and increasing flour to 2 1/4 cups. Stir together 2 Tbsp. white sanding sugar and 1 Tbsp. lime zest. Proceed as directed through Step 4, cutting with a 2-inch star-shaped cutter. Sprinkle cookies with sugar mixture, pressing gently to adhere. Bake and cool as directed, increasing baking time to 14 to 16 minutes or until tips of stars just begin to brown. Makes about 4 dozen.
Cherry-Chocolate Thumbprints Soak 1 cup chopped dried cherries in 4 Tbsp. cherry liqueur 1 hour. Prepare recipe through Step 2, omitting almond extract and stirring in soaked cherries and 3/4 cup Dutch process cocoa with vanilla in Step 1. Shape dough into 1-inch balls (about 1 Tbsp. per ball), and place 2 inches apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Press thumb or end of a wooden spoon into each ball, forming an indentation. Bake and cool as directed. Microwave 1/2 cup white chocolate morsels and 2 Tbsp. heavy cream in a microwave-safe bowl at HIGH 1 minute or until melted and smooth, stirring at 30-second intervals. Spoon 1/2 tsp. chocolate mixture into each indentation. Let stand until white chocolate mixture is firm (about 1 hour). Makes 4 dozen.