Baking 101 – Shortbread with a Twist

Very few things in life are as irresistible and express as warm a welcome to friends and family as something fresh from the oven, and fall is the perfect season to trot out some simple and delicious cakes and quick breads. Here we present a series of fast & fun recipes to get you back to baking.

Shortbread cookies and Christmas go together like Halloween and pumpkin pie. Here are two variations on the recipe that offer a nice change from the dense austerity of the buttery Scotch classic. Either one would be just perfect for the Holiday Cookie Swap coming up this Monday.

The trick to shortbread cookies is to not overcook them; even 1 minute too long will darken their little bottoms. This modern twist results in a delicate, melt in your mouth experience

Melting Moments


1 1/2 cups (195 grams) all purpose flour

1/2 cup (60 grams) cornstarch (corn flour)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup (30 grams) powdered (confectioners or icing) sugar

1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

red and green  candied cherries, chopped into bits


  1. In a medium sized bowl whisk together the flour, cornstarch and salt.
  2. In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes).
  3. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat until incorporated.
  4. Cover and refrigerate the dough for at least one hour or until firm.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven.
  6. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. When dough is firm, scoop a teaspoon of the cookie dough onto the sheet and decorate with a tiny piece of red or green cherry.
  7. Do not worry about the shape; the charm of these cookies is in the individual appearance.
  8. Bake for about 12 – 14 minutes or until the edges of the cookies start to brown. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about 5 minutes.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Another favorite variation of shortbread uses walnuts and pecans. We first tried this recipe when we lived in Austin, Texas, where pecans literally litter the tree-lined streets.

Walnut Pecan Shorties


2 sticks softened butter

2/3 cups sugar

½ cup ground pecans

½ cup ground walnuts

2 cups flour

¼ teaspoon salt


  1. Grind nuts in food processor with a series of short pulses, so they become a fine powder rather than nut butter. (Do not over-process!)
  2. Cream butter and sugar in large bowl and beat at high for 3 minutes. Stir in nuts, then add flour and salt.
  3. Mix dough quickly with hands or spoon, do not overwork.
  4. Flour clean surface and roll to ½ inch thick. Cut into shapes and place on ungreased sheet.
  5. Bake 10-12 minutes at 375. Makes about 5 dozen 2 inch cookies.

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