Holiday Baking :: The long and shortbread of it!

Some people adore shortbread, others not so much. Rich, sweet and buttery, this decadent treat simply melts in your mouth. There are many variations and but the core recipe is basic - butter, sugar, flour... there are no eggs in shortbread which makes it an ideal gift for those with egg alergies. It's one of the easiest kinds of cookies, in my opinion, to bake and when baked in a pie tin, and sliced in thin slices, makes for an elegant and simple treat, no matter how you fancy it up.

A couple of years go I made Peppermint Shortbread Stars

Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan and The Entertaining House

I used a classic shortbread recipe.
  • 3/4 pound butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 - 2 tbs vanilla
  • 2 cups of vanilla *frosting, canned or home made
  • Food coloring, your choice
  • Mini candy canes in individually wrapped (about 6)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. Add flour to the to the butter-and-sugar mixture. . Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. You can either wrap the dough and refrigerate for later use or roll dough and start cutting into desired shapes with the cookie cutter of your choice. Be sure to liberally apply flour to your work surface as well as your rolling pin.

As cookies are cut place them onto your cutting board. When ready bake for about 15 minutes until golden brown. (May require up to 20 minutes)

As the cookies are baking use a rolling pin and carefully smash the miniature candy canes. (Or you can buy pre-crushed peppermint.)

When cookies have cooled you can start to decorate. You can use store bought frosting or make your own icing. If you use store bought, color it with food coloring to get the desired shade. Then add about 2 Tbs of water to the container and mix well.

Using a pastry knife or butter knife carefully spread the frosting on to the cookie. Once the cookies have been covered (I usually do this in batches) shake some of the peppermint candy cane crumbs on to the cookie. A little goes a long way for a perfectly and not overwhelmingly pepperminty cookie! Cookies frosted with a canned frosting will need a longer time for the icing to harden, at least overnight.

Recipe for Royal Icing:

3 egg whites
1 lb. confectioners' sugar
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. almond extract or white vanilla extract

Place all ingredients in bowl and beat on medium high for a full 10 minutes. Icing will become thick and glossy but will not increase in volume. Keep covered with damp cloth while using, removing small portions to bowl as needed. Tint if desired. To thin, add a few drops of water. Royal icing hardens with a nice sheen.

Orange et Chocolat
I adore the combination of orange and chocolate and a few years ago I created these decadent treats for a good friend of mine and she thought they were simply to die for, every year since, at Christmastime, I make these for her.

Property of jessica Gordon Ryan and The Entertaining House
I used to make these as cookies, but I found it much too labor-intensive so I make, and present it as a tarte and the dessert can be served in bars (as pictured above)or in lean slices. I also found that it is easier to make this in a tarte pan as you can pull the sides apart and then slide the pastry right off the base on to a pretty plate. The shape of the tarte makes a perfect presentation at the dinner table, dessert table or as a gift.
1 stick plus 2 Tbs. butter
3/4 Cup of confectioners sugar
2 cups of flour
3/4 Cups of ground almond meal
2 tsp. of vanilla
2 tbs. of orange zest (optional)
1 Jar of good quality marmalade
1 Cup of semi sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
In a mixer beat together butter and sugar until well blended, add vanila, orange zest, almonds and flour. Blend well.
Place dough in a tarte pan making sure to push dough into all corners and that surface is as evenly covered as possible.
Place in oven for 15 minutes.
In a small saucepan heat jam so that it gets soft enough to be able to spread with a spoon.
When the 15 mimnutes is done, open the oven and pull out tarte. Using a wooden spoon or silicone spatula carefully spread melted jam evenly over the dough — leave at least 1/4 inch around the edge so the crust will not stick to the sides.
Place back in oven for 15 more minutes.
In another saucepan create a double boiler if you don’t have one, and melt chocolate.
When chocolate has melted pour into a pastry bag with small tip attached and pipe chocolate on to the marmalade mixture on the tart.
Place in freezer to cool and set.
Remove sides from tarte pan and slide onto a pretty serving dish when ready to serve!

Cherry Almond Linzer Tart
A slight twist on the old favorite. I love raspberry jam but it is quite sweet. A really good cherry jam (Hero, Bonne Mamman) with a slightly sweet-tart flavor is the perfect topping for the basic shortbread crust. If you wanted to dress it up you could melt some white chocolate (about 1 cup) and pour it into a pastry bag and using a fairly small pastry tip pipe a pretty pattern over the top. As with my Tarte au Chocolat et Marmalade below this can be cut up into bars for easy handling at a party, or cut into thin slices for a more elegant look.

Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan and The Entertaining House
1 stick, plus 2 tbs of butter
2 cups of flour
1 cup of confectioners sugar
3/4 cups of almond meal (can be done by pulsing almonds in food processor)
1 tsp. vanilla or almond extract
1 jar of high quality cherry jam
1 cup white chocolate chips for melting, optional.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
In a mixer blend together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add vanilla, flour and almond meal. Mix well
Pour dough into tart pan and spread evenly.
Place in oven for 15 minutes,
Meanwhile in a small saucepan heat jam until it becomes soft and spreadable
When the 15 minutes is up remove the tart pan from the oven and spread the jam over the top as evenly as possible, leaving about a half an inch at the edge
Place back in the oven for another 15 minutes.
Remove and let cool.
(Pipe with white chocolate if desired, which I usually do with a pretty design and I'm not sure why I didn't! Then set in fridge of freezer to set)

Chocolate Shortbread with Peppermint Bark

It all started a week ago with an image on Pinterest. It was a chocolate shortbread recipe. I, of course, unable to leave anything alone, must tinker and adjust and create. It's the holidays and time for baking rediculous extravantly, decadent recipes that our wasitlines loathe... so this is chocolate shortbread taken to a new level!

Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan and The Entertaining House
The chocolate shortbread is baked in the oven, then topped with melted semi-sweet chocolate and then topped with crushed Peppermint Bark that the geniuses over at Trader Joe's have come up with!
8 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 cup of butter, (2 sticks)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups of flour

Preheat oven to 325
Melt 8 oz unsweetened chocolate (Bakers, 4 squares) with 2 sticks of butter
When melted pour into an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment and add 2 cups of flour 1 1/2 cups of sugar, and the vanilla, which I never measure and always eyeball.
When all blended, can be rough in texture, divide batter into 2 equal parts and line 2 pie tins with mixture.
Bake in oven for about 20-25 minutes.
Remove from oven and add enough chocolate chips over the top to cover evenly.
Turn oven off and leave in for a couple of minutes until the chocolate softens.
Using a rubber or silicone sptatula, spread the chocolate evenly over the top. Sprinkle generously with crushed peppermint bark.
Place in fridge or freezer for a quick harden or leave out overnight.
If your gift list is anything at all like mine, it helps to have a few simple and yet pretty treats to package up and give away!

Wishing you all Sweet Saturdays!