It's holiday baking season! Have you made your cookies yet? I always have a hard time deciding what I want to make. I want to do something that is different from what everyone else bakes, that is freezer stable and that doesn't require icing. I love making traditional gingerbread, but I just don't have the patience or the time to decorate it properly. A couple years ago I decided to make these beautiful gingerbread snowflakes and I remember spending hours flooding, piping, sugaring and lastly placing little silver balls on with tweezers. I have to admit that they were gorgeous, but given how many Christmas parties that I attend every year, they just weren't practical enough to make an annual tradition. As a result each year I bake something different and the decision process drives me nuts, there are just so many choices!
I have learned throughout the years that freezer stable cookies are the way to go for the holiday season. I spend a whole day in early December baking up a storm, and then I pop my goodies in the freezer all ready for the various parties that I attend throughout the month. This has the added bonus of making me clean out my freezer so that I have space! The important thing to note when doing this method is to pick a recipe that is within your comfort level and that will do well in the freezer for a month or so. Traditional Christmas cookies like sugar, gingerbread and shortbread all hold up really well. Sugar and gingerbread are easier to make and are universally liked, however it is best to decorate them after they have thawed so make sure you have the time to do this.
Shortbread is a whole different story. It is fiddly to make so it's best to have some baking experience before you attempt it, especially on a mass scale! If you want to make traditional Scottish shortbread you only need three ingredients; sugar, flour and butter. The lack of liquid in this makes it crumbly and hard to work with. You need to have patience and ample space in your fridge to chill the dough. The other downside to shortbread is that it is more of an "adult" cookie. Kiddos tend to go for the chocolate or decorated options. However in saying all this negative stuff, homemade shortbread is a real treat. Few people actually have time time and patience to make it from scratch, so it can be a real hit at events. This year I decided to take the traditional shortbread of my youth and give it a twist with matcha. These cookies are a pretty green color and have a very sophisticated flavor that is geared towards adults.
For those of you who aren't familiar with matcha, it is a type of powdered green tea. The taste of this tea is very delicate and specific, regular tea ground up won't produce the same flavor. It's very rare that I do this but there are absolutely no substitutions that can be made in this recipe and no steps that can be skipped. I have added an egg along with the traditional ingredients to make it easier to work with and a tiny bit more forgiving. Please give yourself enough time to properly chill your dough, shortbread doesn't like to be rushed. Also make sure that you start with room temperature unsalted butter, don't try to warm cold butter in the microwave or buy salted butter, the results won't be the same. In saying all this these cookies are worth the time and effort! They are a totally unique treat that will stand out at all your potlucks and parties.
Yields about 3 dozen small cookies
0.5 Pound Unsalted Butter, Room Temperature, Cubed
0.5 Cup Confectioners' Sugar
1 Egg, Beaten
2 Cups All Purpose Flour
2 TBSP Matcha
0.5 TSP Salt
Using an electric mixer on medium speed cream together butter and sugar. Continue until the mixture lightens in color and becomes fluffy, about 3 minutes or so.
Add in egg and beat until well incorporated.
In a separate bowl sift together the dry ingredients, make sure that it is well blended and there are no lumps.
Add flour mixture to butter and mix only until evenly combined. It will seem dry.
Place some parchment paper down, add a little bit of flour and put your dough down on this. Top with a tiny bit of flour and a second piece of parchment.
Roll your dough until it is about .25 inch thick.
Chill for about 30 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
Cut your dough into whatever shape desire. I like to make my shortbread cookies in bite sized rounds. Cooking time for these is a bit longer than for most cookies so shapes with thin points don't normally do very well.
Place on baking trays lined with parchment. Chill for another 10 to 15 minutes.
Bake at 325 degrees for about 20 minutes. Rotate halfway through and check after 15 minutes. You don't want these cookies to color very much.
Let cool completely before storing. These last a couple weeks in a airtight container at room temperature, or a couple months in the freezer.