Hazelnut Shortbread


Not all Decembers are created equal. Unfortunately, this year for my family, we’ve been dealing with relatives in the hospital, and an all ill cat (who subsequently died, RIP Wolfie). Nevertheless, there are some recipes that I strive to make for the holiday season, be it a good year or a trying year. Hazelnut shortbreads are one such stalwart recipe.

I came across the recipe a few years ago, Painted Hazelnut Shortbreads My attempt at the recipe, I painstakingly painted fancy patterns on the hazelnut trees using the eggwash paint. It took hours. They were pretty, but oh so fussy! I swore to myself I would simplify things, so the next year, I omitted the paint. The cookies were simpler, but tasted just as a good. When you have so many other tasks to do and people to visit at the holidays, taking the time to paint patterns on cookies isn’t for everyone (unless you have unlimited time and help, which I do not).

These shortbreads must use whole hazelnuts—do not try to use pre-ground hazelnuts; it won’t work. Most of the prep can be done in a food processor, but use your hands to make sure all of the dough is evenly mixed.

Hazelnut Shortbreads

1 cup whole hazelnuts
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups all-purpose flour

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Place whole hazelnuts on baking sheet, and roast for 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool, and peel the skins from the hazelnuts. Most will come away easily by hand.
2. Pulse toasted hazelnuts and sugar in food processor just until nuts are very finely chopped.
3. Add butter, vanilla and salt; pulse to blend. Add flour; pulse just until blended and a soft dough forms.
4. Dump dough into a mixing bowl, and mould dough into a ball by hand, making sure to combine any crumbly bits into the dough. Divide dough into fourths; shape each into a 4-in.-round disk. Wrap in plastic and chill 30 minutes.
5. Heat oven to 300°F. You will need 2 baking sheets.
6. Place 2 disks of dough on each ungreased baking sheet; sprinkle with a little flour. Pat or roll each disk into a 7-in. round, about 3/8 in. thick. Flute or crimp the edges of each round with your finger. With large knife, cut each round into 8 wedges (don’t separate)
7. Bake 1 sheet at a time (refrigerate remaining sheet) 30-35 minutes, or until pale-golden around edges. While hot, recut wedges. Cool slightly on baking sheet before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Makes 32 shortbreads. You could also dip the edge or the end into melted chocolate if feeling fancy, but I enjoy the cookies plain with a good cup of milky chai tea.

Zesty Citrus Shortbread

It wouldn’t be the holiday season without delicious, seasonal cookies. Shortbreads are one of my favourite cookies. I have my stalwart recipes–hazelnut shortbreads, pinwheel shortbreads, and chocolate sables. But I also like to try new recipes in my quest for the “perfect” shortbread recipe.

Shortbread supposedly has its origins in medieval Britain, where it began as as twice-baked bread, sometimes sweetened and spiced. The shortbread that we know today appeared in 18th century Scotland. Because of the expensive ingredients (especially sugar), it was reserved for holiday celebrations.

I saw a recipe a month ago in the Canadian House and Home magazine for a Scottish shortbread. It sounded but promising, but needed a bit of zing. So I made a batch, adding some fresh citrus zest. Any sort of citrus zest would work–clementine would be delicious, as would grapefruit. I settled on a combination of lemon and lime.

To store shortbread, keep them in a wax paper-lined cookie tin rather than a plastic container–they will stay fresh and retain their delicate texture longer!

Zesty Citrus Shortbread

3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
1 tsp citrus zest (I used the zest of one lime and half a lemon)
2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup rice flour
1 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 275F.
2. Add sugar and citrus zest to food processor. Grind sugar and zest together for a few seconds. Add butter, and process until butter and sugar are smoothly incorporated.
3. Add flour, rice flour, and salt. Run food processor until mixture is combined. OR scrape butter and sugar mixture into a bowl, and add dry ingredients. Stir by hand until combined, and the mixture forms a uniform batter.
4. Wrap dough in cling film and let chill in refrigerator for a half hour.
Divide dough in half. On lightly floured surface, roll out dough into 1/4 inch thickness.
5. Using a 2 inch cookie cutter (round or square), cut dough. You can reroll dough scraps once, but avoid rerolling too many times or dough will become tough.
6. Place on ungreased cookie sheets, about 1 inch apart. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until cookies are a creamy colour.