On the seventh day of Christmas … my true love gave to me … Cranberry, Pistachio & Ginger Shortbread.
If there is one cookie in this year’s Starry Night collection that positively shouts CHRISTMAS, it has to be this one. If you don’t overbrown the cookies, the sparkling red cranberries, green pistachios, and yellow lemon zest and candied ginger will glow like little jewels. To enhance this jewel-like effect, I like to keep the surface embellishment to just a light dusting of fine, clear sanding sugar, which lends sparkle but doesn’t detract from the colorful bits studding each cookie.
And the flavors–oh my! This is one cookie that is as interesting on the first bite as on the tenth bite. In fact, it’s hard to stop eating these delectable, crisp, yet chewy, little morsels. You might want to make a double batch, and hide one batch for yourself, because your family and friends will beg you mercilessly for all you will give them. Trust me, I’ve learned this lesson the hard way.
In true shortbread style, I roll these cookies just a little thicker than usual. This makes them good candidates for shipping, as they don’t break as easily as thinner cookies. The added thickness is also better as a vehicle for the cup and a half of chopped goodies that go into the dough. You don’t want to flatten these goodies too much in the roiling process.
If there is a trick to this recipe, it is in ensuring that the cranberries and candied ginger are super plump and moist to begin with. Do not use a forgotten bag of dried up cranberries or candied ginger for these cookies. That might not spell disaster in a more liquid batter, such as a muffin or cake, but here there is no moisture for these ingredients to grab. Plus, the baking itself is drying, potentially rendering these succulent, sparkling bits as hard and unchewable as pebbles.
Cranberry, Pistachio & Candied Ginger Shortbread
These cookies are loaded with interesting textures and flavors, all held together in a buttery, lemony shortbread. Be sure to use very fresh and moist dried cranberries and candied ginger.
Ingredient Note Trader Joe’s sells super moist and very delicious candied ginger chunks. If you can get them, definitely use for this recipe.
Baking Note For best results, cookies must be COLD when they go into the oven. Otherwise, they may spread too much. Always give cookies plenty of space to spread regardless, at least an inch between cookies. Baking times are APPROXIMATE. Correct baking times are critical to the success of your cookies. Test your oven and pan setup with a few cookies to start with and watch the timing closely. Dark pans bake faster than light pans or air-sandwiched pans. Silicon mat-lined pans bake faster than parchment-lined pans. Cookies that are rolled to 1/8-inch thick bake faster than cookies rolled to ¼-inch thick. And your oven may be running hot or cold. There are so many variables. Do test a couple of cookies first. It may save an entire batch later.
3 cups (13½ ounces) King Arthur unbleached, all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1½ cups unsalted butter (3 sticks)
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
½ teaspoon lemon oil (or 1 teaspoon lemon extract)
½ cup dried cranberries, chopped
½ cup roasted, unsalted pistachios, chopped
½ cup moist candied ginger, chopped
clear sanding sugar, optional
- In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour and salt. Reserve.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar.
- Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, and lemon oil, and incorporate.
- Add the cranberries, pistachios, and candied ginger, and mix to distribute evenly.
- Add the flour mixture and mix very briefly on very slow speed, just until a dough forms.
- Divide the dough in half and set each half over a long sheet of plastic wrap or waxed paper. Flatten the dough to a 1-inch-thick disc.
- Seal the plastic wrap around each disk of dough and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight. (The sealed dough can be refrigerated for 2-3 days if necessary.)
- On a lightly floured pastry cloth, using a covered and floured rolling pin, roll out one disk of dough at a time to 3/16-inch thick. Use a little flour to keep the dough from sticking if necessary, but try not to work too much additional flour into the dough.
- Using a 2-inch cookie cutter of your choice, cut out the cookies.
- Arrange cookies slightly apart on cookie sheets that have been lightly coated with vegetable spray.
- If desired, sprinkle each cooking with fine sanding sugar.
- Bake at 350° for 11-13 minutes, rotating pans at the halfway point to ensure even browning.
- Remove from the oven, loosen each cookie with a thin spatula and let cool for 3-4 minutes on the pan. Remove cookies from the cookie sheet and place on a wire rack and cool completely.
- Store airtight in layers, separated by wax paper rounds, in a cookie tin, in a cool, dry place. These cookies improve with age. They keep for 3-4 weeks. Cookies may also be frozen.
Makes about 5 dozen, 2” cookies.
Also, check out last year’s collection, Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Deck the Halls.