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Dried Cherry Shortbread Bigger is better, especially when it comes to cookies. Not because you get more yummy-in-your-tummy, but because big cookies are meant to be shared. For casual entertaining, have fun and save time by making big or “slab” cookies. This delectable shortbread recipe starts out in a large tart pan, but ends up being cut into shareable squares. Or like Salted Butter Breakups, a recipe which I wrote about over a year ago, you can break it up with your hands and share pieces with your friends.

Dried Cherry Shortbread
The Art of the Cookie by Shelly Kaldunski

INGREDIENTS
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups sugar
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup dried cherries, coarsely chopped

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Have ready a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.

2. In a bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat together the butter and 1¼ cups of the sugar until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Beating on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture, beating until almost incorporated.

4. Add the vanilla and dried cherries and beat on low speed just until the dough forms large clumps and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

5. Using your hands, evenly press the dough into the tart pan. With a fork, prick the entire surface, making holes 1/4 inch deep at 1-inch intervals.

6. Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake until the center is very lightly golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Immediately sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar evenly over the shortbread and use a sharp chef’s knife to cut it into squares. Let cool in pan, about 30 minutes.

7. Remove the cookies from the pan and store in an airtight container, layered between sheets of parchment paper at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Makes about 30 cookies

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. For the best flavor, use a quality brand of butter.

2. Check the shortbread after 25 minutes and keep an eye on it, so it does not get too dark.

Enjoy!

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Pistachio Shortbread Cookies A package of pistachio shortbread cookies sits in a basket near a cash register in a New Mexico restaurant. I debate whether or not to buy them. On the con side of the debate, eating cookies goes against my desire to lose weight and they seem a bit pricey at three small cookies for $3.99. However, on the pro side, I am on vacation and only a crazy person attempts to diet while traveling. Plus, my hubby and I need something to munch on during a long drive back to our hotel. Dilemma solved. I buy the cookies and eat them in the car, but that only creates a new dilemma. Because the cookies possess an exquisitely buttery taste and a wonderfully crunchy texture, I crave for more.

Back at home, I search for an easy pistachio shortbread cookie recipe that will satisfy my cravings. Found it. Another dilemma solved. That is, until my next trip and my next craving!

Pistachio Shortbread
Adapted from Epicurious

INGREDIENTS
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1½ sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup natural unsalted pistachios, lightly toasted, chopped
1 large egg yolk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS
1. Mix flour, powdered sugar, and salt together in a food processor.
2. Add butter, pistachios, egg yolk, and vanilla.
3. Pulse the mixture until a moist ball forms. Transfer dough to work surface. Divide dough in half.
4. Form each dough half into 8 x 1¼-inch log (if dough is too soft, chill until firm, about 30 minutes).
5. Wrap logs in plastic; refrigerate until firm, about 4 hours. DO AHEAD: Can be made 5 days ahead; keep chilled.
6. Preheat oven to 325°F.
7. Slice logs into 1/4-inch-thick rounds, rolling log after every few slices to retain round shape.
8. Place rounds on ungreased baking sheets, spacing 1-inch apart. Bake shortbread until barely golden, about 18 minutes.
9. Cool shortbread on baking sheets.
10. DO AHEAD: Shortbread can be made up to 4 days ahead. Store shortbread in airtight container at room temperature.

Makes about 60 cookies

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. I rough chopped the nuts before adding them to the food processor. If you desire larger chunks of nuts in these cookies, you could add whole nuts to the processor. However, keep in mind that chunkier nuts might make it more difficult to slice the dough.

2. I lined the cookie sheets with parchment paper.

3. I chilled the dough logs for 2 hours and they were firm, but easy to slice.

4. These cookies tasted better and had more crunch when they were baked to a light golden brown versus until “barely golden.”

5. Before serving I decided to dust them with Baker’s sugar (ultrafine granular) for a sweet and pretty finish.

6. I only got 44 cookies from this recipe.

Enjoy!

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Christmas Cookies Like fog rolling in and stealing the sun, winter doldrums came and swept over me. Even though it’s not officially winter yet, I’ve been feeling kind of blue these last couple of weeks. Realizing this, I knew I desperately needed a special kind of therapy – cookie therapy. Luckily, a friend sensed my mood and we set up a “therapy session.” Baking and decorating cookies with reckless creativity and chatting and laughing made my case of wintertime blues disappear.

#1 – The Cookies
The cookies featured in the photo above are my holiday version of my Valentine’s Day Cookies. Click the link for the recipe and directions. These decorated shortbread cookies are cheerful to look at and delicious to devour!

#2 – Edible Gifts
60 Ideas For Homemade Edible Gifts If Chocolate-Covered Bacon, Earl Grey Kumquat Marmalade, or Parmesan Black Pepper Biscotti sound delicious to you, just think how impressed your friends will be when you give them one of these edible gifts. PopSugar’s post Over 60 Ideas For Homemade Edible Gifts is filled with intriguing and interesting ideas. Some of them take advance planning such as making homemade limoncello or vanilla extract.

#3 – In The Mirrored Room
Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirrored Room - the Souls of Millions of Light Years Away Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama created an art installation called the “Infinity Mirrored Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away” that is both breathtaking and surreal. Lucky New York City folk can visit this amazing installation until December 21st at the David Zwirner Gallery. How I wish I could step into that room!

#4 – Finding Courage
How to Find Courage In the Wizard of Oz, the Cowardly Lion sought to find courage, not knowing it was already within him. Each day we face a variety of struggles, most of which we deal with and then we move on with our lives. To do this requires courage. Like the Cowardly Lion, many of us don’t realize that we already possess the courage we need to face issues. We just need to uncover it. While reading an online magazine this morning, I came across an article by Steve Keating called How to Find Courage. Although it was written by a business man for a target audience, its message is applicable for everyone.

#5 – Never Too Late
“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.” Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Go Now and Spread Joy!

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Heat up those ovens and start your baking! Now is the time to consider sending out care packages to all the first-time-away-from-home college students you know! Just think about the smiles on their faces when they receive your packages in the mail! Here’s a recipe from the famous Dorie Greenspan for Espresso-Chocolate Shortbread Cookies that are easy to make and travel well. The combination of espresso, chocolate, and butter will go great with all the Starbuck’s coffee students use to fortify themselves. For more ideas of what to include in care packages, check out my post College Care Packages.

Espresso-Chocolate Shortbread Cookies
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon boiling water
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, or ¾ cup store-bought mini chocolate chips
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional)

1. Dissolve the espresso in the boiling water, and set aside to cool to tepid.

2. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and confectioners’ sugar together on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until the mixture is very smooth.

3. Beat in the vanilla and espresso, then reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, mixing only until it disappears into the dough. Don’t work the dough much once the flour is incorporated. Fold in the chopped chocolate with a sturdy rubber spatula.

4. Using the spatula, transfer the soft, sticky dough to a gallon-size zipper-lock plastic bag. Put the bag on a flat surface, leaving the top open, and roll the dough into a 9-x-10½ -inch rectangle that’s ¼ inch thick. As you roll, turn the bag occasionally and lift the plastic from the dough so it doesn’t cause creases. When you get the right size thickness, seal the bag, pressing out as much air as possible, and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, or for up to 2 days.

5. GETTING READY TO BAKE: Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

6. Put the plastic bag on a cutting board and slit it open. Turn the firm dough out onto the board and, using a ruler as a guide and a sharp knife cut the dough into 1½-inch squares. Transfer the squares to the baking sheets and carefully prick each one twice with a fork, gently pushing the tines through the cookies until they hit the sheet.

7. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point. The shortbreads will be very pale – they shouldn’t take on much color. Transfer the cookies to a rack.

8. If you’d like, dust the cookies with confectioners’ sugar while they are still hot. Cool the cookies to room temperature before serving.

Makes 32 cookies.

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These are my signature Valentine’s Day cookies, but making them tends to be a love-hate type of situation for me. I love that decorating theses cookies brings out my inner Picasso, but because they require so much time and patience, I hate making them. I say “hate” lightly, though. I admit working with the icing can be challenging, but it is also therapeutic. Even though the cookies in the photo are all of the same design, I enjoy experimenting with the flow of the icing and creating new designs. No two are ever exactly the same and after sitting at my kitchen table for hours straight on end, they are always a labor of love.

This type of project is always more fun when shared with others. What about this? Why not host a Valentine’s Day cookie-decorating party for your friends? If you don’t feel like baking, order undecorated sugar cookies from your local bakery or grocery store’s bakery. The fun will be in the decorating and the time spent with friends.

Shortbread Valentine’s Day Cookies:
(Original recipe is from Martha Stewart)

1-1/2 C unsalted butter, softened
¾ C sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 C unbleached all-purpose flour
1 C cornstarch
Icing recipe below

Cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Stir in the vanilla.

Sift together the flour and cornstarch and then stir this into the creamed mixture. Place the dough on a sheet of plastic wrap and form the dough into a round disc. Wrap the dough and chill it for at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line the baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface and cut out heart shapes with a cookie cutter. Bake for 5-8 minutes. These cookies remain a pale color. Carefully remove from baking sheets and cool on racks. Spread on icing and let icing dry until shell forms. Store in an airtight container.

Makes about four dozen cookies.

Icing:
3-1/2 C confectioners’ sugar, sifted
3 large egg whites, lightly beaten
½ tsp fresh lemon juice
Food coloring (I use Wilton’s gel icing colors)

In a medium bowl, combine the confectioners’ sugar, egg whites, and lemon juice. Blend until smooth.

Divide icing into small bowls. Add food colors. Blend the colors thoroughly. Make in small batches as necessary. Apply icing to cookies using small brushes. Stir individual bowls occasionally to prevent icing from hardening.

Makes enough for four dozen cookies.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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