There's no gift more meaningful than one you've made yourself. For me, that means cookies, cakes and other treats from my kitchen. I bake all year-round, but at what feels like a round-the-clock pace once the holiday season begins. That's when I seek out recipes that churn out pretty, flavorful results with minimal prep and fuss. This is not the time for finicky soufflés or fragile lace cookies.
Shortbread is the LBD of the cookie world. It's simple, sophisticated and classic, and can be endlessly "accessorized" with your choice of mix-ins.
Because of the high percentage of butter, shortbread is also melt-in-your-mouth tender and the unbaked dough freezes beautifully. Whip up a few different "logs" on a weekend afternoon, and you'll have a freezer full of ready-to-slice cookies for gifts, entertaining and unexpected guests.
I am especially fond of this orange-pomegranate shortbread, full of in-season citrus and holiday-ready pomegranate seeds.
These cookies can also be frozen after they're baked. Just be sure to separate the layers with wax paper to protect the icing drizzle.
Orange Pomegranate Shortbread
4 dozen cookies
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
zest of one large orange
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
large pinch of salt
seeds from 1 large pomegranate, divided (see notes in instructions)
3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1 tablespoon orange juice
Photos by Sheri Silver
1. Beat the butter and granulated sugar till light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides and add the orange zest and egg; beat again. Add the flour, cornstarch and salt, and beat till just combined. Gently fold in 3/4 of the pomegranate seeds.
2. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a log that is 18" long. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze till firm, about an hour (unbaked log can be frozen for up to one month).
3. Pre-heat the oven to 275 F; line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Slice the dough into 1/4"-thick slices and place on your prepared sheets. Bake for 25 minutes, or till barely brown around the edges. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
4. Place the confectioner's sugar and orange juice in a small bowl. Wrap your remaining pomegranate seeds in a piece of muslin, cheesecloth or even a clean T-shirt. Twist tightly to release the juice from the seeds into your bowl. Whisk together till glaze is thick but pourable, adding more sugar or juice if needed till the proper consistency is achieved. Drizzle the glaze over the cookies; let set completely.
5. Note: You can sometimes find packaged pomegranate seeds at the market. You'll need about a cup for this recipe. To easily seed a fresh pomegranate, halve it and hold one half, cut side down, over a bowl. Using a large spoon, give the fruit some hard smacks all over. The seeds will fall right out!