Things I did at the family reunion in Tucson, Arizona this weekend:
- finished knitting a scarf for my Lolo (“grandfather” in Tagalog)
- tried to tell my adult cousins apart, with mixed success
- talked my husband and brother into the “heated”-but-not-actually-warm swimming pool on the last night of our stay
- learned to play Pandemic and won 3 out of 4 games
- went hiking and learned that of the approximately 1,800 species of cactus in the world, only two are not native to the North American desert
- shopped for shiny rocks with the women of the family (and Robby) at the Gem, Mineral, & Fossil Showcase
- contributed to the big family dinner with a triple batch of 5-Ingredient Shortbread Cookies with Chocolate
The cookies were sort of overshadowed by all of the other food (and the glass pan of leftovers that I dropped on the way to the fridge), but they were delicious. They are extremely easy, especially if you have a food processor or stand mixer. One moment you’re mixing up a sort of butter and sugar sand, and the next, you have a cohesive ball of cookie dough. It’s basically magic.
I was immensely assisted by these timely cookie-making tips from Smitten Kitchen. Essentially, she says that the usual butter softening and extended chilling time are unnecessary. Instead, she recommends using cold butter, rolling the dough out immediately, and then popping it in the freezer for a few minutes. This technique may not work on all cookies, but it is perfect for cookie cutters.
I should also say that I bought my first cookie cutters for this recipe! No, wait, not my first cookie cutters–someone gave us Star Wars cookie cutters for our wedding. These are the first ones that I myself have purchased. I was looking for hearts, but I bought this kit because it also has football-themed ones (!), which is when I decided that I needed to make this recipe in celebration of a) Valentine’s Day and b) the Big Game the name of which I cannot use for copyright issues. I’m hardly a professional decorator, but a few minutes with some melted chocolate and a tube of icing (and a bit of patience) and they came out pretty cute.
As written, this recipe makes about 12 cookies, depending on the size of your cookie cutters. It’s very easy to double or triple to accommodate the number of people you plan to feed. I also like to roll the dough out thinner than the usual 1/4 – 1/2 inch, as they are so rich. No surprise, I like them best covered in chocolate, but simple drizzling elevates the look.
Robby Recommends: Ramos Pinto Porto Tawny or Pedro Ximenez Sherry. Port has an almost syrupy sweetness that pairs well with the subtler sweetness of shortbread. PX sherry has a bit of a nutty flavor that will also pair well.
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Recipe adapted from A Couple Cooks, who got it from “The Vanilla Bean Baking Book: Recipes for Irresistible Everyday Favorites and Reinvented Classics.” The author also has a fabulous blog of the same name!
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into small pieces
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 rounded teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla, or the scraped seeds of 1 vanilla bean
2-6 ounces dark to bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Optional: Colored decorating icing
Set one oven rack to a central position and preheat to 350F.
In a bowl, stand mixer, or food processor, mix butter and sugar until completely combined. Add in salt and vanilla.
Mix in flour until a solid ball forms.
Place dough between two cookie sheet-sized pieces of parchment paper. Roll out to about 1/4 inch thickness (you can go as thick as 1/2 inch or as thin as 1/8).
Place on a cookie sheet and stick in the freezer for 10-15 minutes.
Remove from freezer. Unstick the top sheet of parchment paper, then flip it. Unpeel the other piece; use it to line a cookie sheet.
Cut out your desired shapes. If the dough becomes sticky, return it to the freezer for a few minutes.
Bake 12 to a cookie sheet for 15-17 minutes, or until the edges just begin to brown.
Move cookies to a wire cooling rack. Allow to cool completely.
Microwave chocolate on 50 percent power in 30-second intervals, stirring well between. Remove before all the chocolate is melted and stir until the last bits melt. Allow to cool, stirring often, until chocolate is cool (stirring makes it glossier!)
Decorate cooled cookies by dipping, coating the tops with chocolate, drizzling, adding frosting, or all of the above!