Gingerbread Shortbread

If cookies had their own Season -- no different than Summer, Winter, Spring or Fall -- it would, most certainly, be the month of December (in case you were wondering: chocolate season is in February; ice cream season in August. Obviously.) December leads us right up to Christmas, the most festive time of the whole year that subsequently demands cookies, and lots of them, to be baked, exchanged, and eaten, preferably with a mug of hot chocolate nearby. Cookie Season includes (but is by no means limited to) everything from gingerbread men to jammy linzer stars, iced sugar cookies to cinnamon-y snickerdoodles, chocolate chip, oatmeal, and peanut butter cookies, pecan sandies, rugelach, and Russian tea cookies (also known as Mexican wedding cookies -- a cookie with an identity crisis). My mom bakes up almond, white chocolate, and apricot cantucci every year; my grandmother churns out batches of fig stuffed cookies from Calabria called nepitelle and shatter-y anise scented pizzelle; I myself opt for these brownie cookies and these crazy chocolate chunk cookies. Bottom line: there is no one way to do Cookie Season, just be sure to bake a lot of whatever you love most.

So! Having said all this, here's my new favorite cookie, one I will most certainly give away in tins as a gift, if I don't change my mind at the last minute and keep them for myself (Merry Christmas to me!) -- this, my friends, is gingerbread shortbread. Now: these are rather simple in appearance -- no rainbow sprinkles or glint of sea salt or melt-y chocolate puddles here -- but don't judge a cookie by its cover! These cookies pack a serious punch, and are more chic than plain, an understated, elegant kind of addition to your cookie repertoire. They're buttery and crumbly and a tiny bit salty, but also spicy and fragrant, the usual ginger bolstered by cinnamon and cloves and nutmeg, with a hint of deep moody molasses. Think of these as shortbread, all dressed up for the holidays, or gingerbread, on a trip to the UK. Most of these were gobbled up by a group of Italians (who generally shy away from anything with cinnamon or spice); two more taste tasters deemed they tasted "just like Christmas;" my sister said that it was impossible to eat just one; they make your whole apartment smell incredible; they're a piece of cake to make, a slice-and-bake kind of deal. I'd go on here, but I'm pretty sure you've already stopped reading this and headed to your kitchen to bake these, haven't you?!

A couple of notes: In the original recipe, there is also the addition of 1/8 teaspoon cardamom (I didn't have any on hand) plus dried cranberries, to be mixed in to the batter at the end (I wanted to keep my cookies plain). Feel free to add either or both of these as you wish. Interestingly, I found that on the first day I baked these, they were more gingerbread than shortbread; when I baked the rest of the dough two days later, the buttery shortbread flavor was a lot more pronounced and these were more shortbread than gingerbread. In any case, the roll of dough for these can most certainly be made in advance; the dough is easy to cut straight from the fridge. 

Looking for other gingerbread recipes? I've got this classic gingerbread, this gingerbread cake, these chocolate gingerbread bars, and these gingerbread cookies. Looking for other recipes with shortbread? I've got these classic shortbread cookies and this pear and chocolate tart with a shortbread crust.

GINGERBREAD SHORTBREAD
Recipe barely adapted from www.rachelcooks.com

Ingredients:
2 sticks (8 ounces or 250 grams) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup (120 grams) powdered sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 and 1/3 cups (about 305 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Directions:
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter, powdered sugar, molasses, vanilla, and salt until smooth. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour and spices. Gradually add the flour/spice mixture and mix on low until combined. On wax paper or parchment paper, form into a 12- to 14-inch log and freeze at least 30 minutes or until firm. Alternatively, you can also refrigerate this until cold. 

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°F. Cut the shortbread dough into 1/4-inch slices and bake for 11-14 minutes on parchment lined baking sheets. Makes 25-30 cookies (really depends on thickness though). 



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