Cranberry, Pistachio & Candied Ginger Shortbread

Cranberry, Pistachio & Candied Ginger Cookies in a Stack

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.

Ingredients for Cranberry, Pistachio & Candied Ginger Shortbread

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.

Cranberry, Pistachio & Candied Ginger Shortbread on Silver Plate

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.

Reindeer Jumping Over Cranberry, Pistachio & Candied Ginger MoonsIf 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 in Gift BoxCranberry, 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

  1. In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour and salt. Reserve.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar.
  3. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, and lemon oil, and incorporate.
  4. Add the cranberries, pistachios, and candied ginger, and mix to distribute evenly.
  5. Add the flour mixture and mix very briefly on very slow speed, just until a dough forms.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.)
  8. 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.
  9. Using a 2-inch cookie cutter of your choice, cut out the cookies.
  10. Arrange cookies slightly apart on cookie sheets that have been lightly coated with vegetable spray.
  11. If desired, sprinkle each cooking with fine sanding sugar.
  12. Bake at 350° for 11-13 minutes, rotating pans at the halfway point to ensure even browning.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.

There’s More

To follow along as we bake our way through this year’s Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Starry Night collection, see the kickoff post and the entire collection.

Also, check out last year’s collection, Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Deck the Halls.



Print Friendly


  1. Gypsybaker says

    I felt too lazy to roll out & cut shapes, so I rolled the dough into 3 separate logs abt. 2″ in diameter, refrigerated them in plastic wrap overnite and next day pre-heated oven, sliced 2 rolls into thin rounds and baked (rotating 1/2 way thru)…they spread out like crazy…still tasted great though.

    I froze the remaining log and next day baked them off and not as much spread when cut off frozen log.
    Wouldn’t waste the time rolling & cutting into shapes if I know they’re going to spread. It’s hard not to eat them all (I gave away the 1st 2 logs worth) but am going to try to make them last until Sat. for another give-away.

    • says

      Gypsybaker, thanks for your feedback. I reviewed this recipe, comparing it to others in my holiday collection and noticed that it specifies a tad bit less flour than most of the others. I adjusted the recipe accordingly (adding flour weight) and also added a baking note on the importance of cold dough. Hope this helps. :-)

  2. Stacey says

    I made several of your cookies for the holidays (they were a big hit, BTW!), but didn’t get to these. So, now I’m going to make them for a party. I would like to them them a bit ahead of time, and you note that shortbread cookies get better with age, but I wondered if the type of storage container would make a difference. Is a metal cookie tin necessary, or does a plastic container (e.g., Rubbermaid) do as well? Thanks!

  3. sms bradley says

    Actually, Ellana, the recipe is formulated so that you can add a few tablespoons of flour in the rolling and not adversely affect the texture of the cookies. Nevertheless, your cookies should work without any additional flour. The wonderful thing about this type of cookie is that they do taste better after a week or more of mellowing. Good luck!

  4. Ellana says

    Thanks for the reply, I’ve got everything assembled to try again. I used King A. flour and measured properly and rolled out the dough between two sheets of parchment paper. I wonder if the addition of even a small amount of flour picked up during rolling might make a difference. I made the first batch on Sunday/Monday this week and they taste better today.

  5. ellana says

    Yes, these may be the tastiest cookies ever. I’m not much of a baker, but the cookies tended to spread out when they went into the oven and so lost their shape. I used cold cookie sheets, the oven was holding a proper temperature, the dough was chilled. I didn’t need flour to roll out the cookies – maybe that would have made a difference. I do want to make more to give to friends so any hints would be most welcome.

    • sms bradley says

      Ellana, I rechecked the recipe just to be sure there isn’t a typo that could have caused your issue. But nope, no typo. Did you measure your flour by spooning it into a measuring cup and then pushing off the excess with a flat edge spatula? Also, I specify King Arthur all purpose, unbleached flour. Is that the flour you used? It does seem odd to me that you were able to roll out the cookies with no flour at all. The dough is quite soft. In any case, you can add another 1/4 cup of flour to the recipe without altering the basic texture of the cookie. These cookies hardly spread at all for me. I’m not sure what happened here but try again.

  6. says

    these look so impressive! I love how they sparkle :) Very unique christmas cookies. Coincidentally, I’m doing 12 days of Christmas cookies as well. so far we haven’t had any overlaps from what I can tell – isn’t it amazing how many Christmas cookies there are out there?
    .-= megan´s last blog ..Snowballs (Russian Teacakes) =-.

    • sms bradley says

      Thanks Megan! It’s great that you are baking Christmas cookies too. It really puts one in the Christmas spirit, eh? I’ll get over to your blog to join in the fun. :-)

  7. Stacey says

    I definitely want to make these! Question: your recipes use greased baking sheets more ofen than parchment paper. Why is that your preferene? Thanks!

    • sms bradley says

      Stacey, it’s funny you should ask that. For last year’s Christmas cookie bake-a-thon, I used parchment paper. This year I notice I am simply using greased cookie sheets. It makes little difference, as long as you rotate the baking sheet half way through the baking (which you should anyway). Your preference really.


  1. […] I just finished up a little summer break between jobs and spent the last weekend of it visiting my friend Becky and her family in Minneapolis. What a beautiful city. We spent the weekend taking walks around Lake Harriet and eating lots of delicious things, many of which came from the Mill City Farmer’s Market. One in particular made me think, I can make this! The original was a beautiful buttery shortbread with big chunks of crystallized ginger. Simple yet delicious. I did a little searching, and this recipe adds a few more elements so the ginger isn’t as pronounced, but I think it’s fabulous in its own right. The dominant flavor here is lemon. If that isn’t your preference, I would just leave out the extract. You could also just press the dough into a square baking pan and make more traditional shortbread bars. Either way, the results will be a bright, buttery cookie. Ginger Shortbread with Cranberries, Pistachios and Lemon adapted from The Luna Cafe […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

CommentLuv badge