When holiday preparations begin, I genuinely enjoy the annual tradition of dusting off my old recipe box filled with dishes we only eat this time of year. Like many cooks, I have my go-to recipes that I love to make in December. It’s not that I don’t adore these recipes year round, but this time of year evokes that culinary nostalgia for baking recipes that symbolize holiday cheer.
For me, it’s holiday cookies that instantly conjure images of snow-capped houses and family dinners. So once the aroma of my cookies begins to waft out of the kitchen, everyone in my house knows the holidays are in full swing. Over the next four weeks, I will be sharing my favorite holiday cookies that not only represent what this time of year means to me, but also showcase the melting pot of cuisines and recipes we feast upon in the United States.
This week, it’s all about Scottish shortbread. Scottish shortbread is a perfect example of a cherished cookie, often only eaten once a year. After all, the holidays are known for eating treats reserved for special occasions.
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In Scotland, New Year’s Eve is called Hogmanay, and this shortbread is always included in the festivities. Since the ingredients in shortbread were once expensive, the cookie has long been considered a luxury and reserved for New Year’s, as well as important celebrations like weddings. Rich with butter (the aforementioned expensive ingredient), the cookie is decadent and delicious, even though it comes together with only a few simple pantry staples.
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To make the cookies, a dough marbled with butter is rolled out and then cut into rounds, triangles, or rectangles. For a decorative touch, the dough is pricked with the tines of a fork for a simple, yet classy, design down the center. I love the unfussy nature of them, but for this recipe I decided to add a bit of salt and vanilla to punch them up. Add this to your holiday cookie tray and savor the buttery crunch as you ring in 2020!
Scottish Shortbread Recipe
Endearingly referred to as “shortie,” these cookies keep for days and pair perfectly with a hot mug of cocoa or tea.
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- 2 cups AP flour
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon vanilla paste
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- In a large bowl, cream butter with light brown sugar until light and fully combined.
- Add flour, salt and vanilla paste and mix again until crumbly.
- Using both hands, begin to press the mixture together to form the dough.
- Continue kneading until all of the ingredients create a smooth ball.
- Roll out the ball between two pieces of parchment paper, sprinkled with flour.
- Create a 9x13 rectangle. And cut out 1 inch strips down the dough.
- Then, cut 3 inch strips across to create rectangular cookies.
- Using a fork, press three to four lines of dots down the cookie pieces.
- Pick up the cookies and place them ½ inch apart on a lined cookie sheet. The cookies do not spread.
- Bake for 15 minutes, rotating half way to ensure all the cookies cook evenly to a light, golden brown.
Header image by Anna Gass.