Merry Christmas fellow bloggers, readers, fans, home renovators and culinary artists! For many of us, Santa has arrived, the gifts have been unwrapped and the joy of the holidays is once again renewed. For weeks, we’ve been decorating trees, sneakily hiding presents to one another and watching an endless array of Christmas-themed movies — for me it’s gotta be “The Santa Clause” and of course “A Christmas Story.” The list of things I love about Christmas could go on and on. But over the years, I’ve found the most important thing of all is spending time with those you love, family and friends alike. Kris Kringle put it best in “Miracle on 34th Street” when he said, “Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a frame of mind.” Now, I know I’m leaving out a rather big component of what makes the holiday season so wonderful — the food. But not just food: the Christmas cookie. Many chefs have different opinions of what makes the perfect seasonal treat and all taste just as yummy as the rest. But for me, the best come from family traditions and being passed down from generation to generation. So with that said, here’s my family’s famous shortbread cookies — simple to make and delicious to eat (especially for Santa).
● 2 sticks butter
● 2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
● 2 cups flour
● 1 teaspoon almond extract
1. Making the dough. Begin by softening the butter, either by leaving it out of the fridge for a few hours or placing it in the microwave (but only for a few seconds at a time so it doesn’t melt). Place into a food processor, along with the flour, sugar and almond extract. Pulse everything together until the ingredients are well combined. Once the dough has formed into a ball, scoop it out of the food processor and place on top of a sheet of parchment paper covered in flour.
2. Forming the cookies. Before you start this next process, preheat your oven to 350 degrees so the cookies will be ready to bake once you’re finished. After your ball of dough is set on the paper, cut it in half to make it easier to roll out. Spread some flour on the top of the dough, as well as around the rolling pin. Start in the middle of the dough and begin rolling it out front to back then side to side until it’s flattened. Make sure not to roll it out too thin otherwise your cookies will break apart once they bake. After the dough is at a proper thickness, you can begin using your cookie cutter shapes. I had the opportunity to purchase a set at IKEA, hence all the Swiss animals. Start by placing your cookie cutters around the outside of the dough and working your way to the center. Carefully lift the cookie cutters out, making sure not to drag the shape out with it. Place the cookies on a baking sheet and lightly press a fork into the center of the dough a couple times. This will help the cookie to not puff up too much and remain flat and crispy. Continue to combine the leftover dough, roll it out and cut out shapes until all the dough is gone.
3. The Baking. Once your oven is preheated, place the pan on the middle rack and bake for about 20 minutes. The cookies should look golden brown, with slightly brown edges. Make sure to watch them carefully so they don’t burn. Leave the cookies on the pan for a few minutes before placing them on a rack to cool. Otherwise you run the risk of having them fall apart before they have time to set. If you feel like adding some more sweetness, sprinkle some confectioner’s sugar on the top to look like snow.
And voilà! The only hard part about this recipe is trying not to eat all the cookies at once. They’re great for snacking and can be enjoyed by parents and children alike. So once again, merry Christmas and here’s to a happy new year!