On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me … Toasted Almond Black Cherry Shortbread.
Wow, we’re more than halfway through The Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies. What an adventure this has been for the LunaCafe OtherWorldly Kitchen. I always do a ton of baking for the holidays, but I have never tried to capture it like this in words and photos. (Many many thanks to MauiJim, LunaCafe photo meister, for the beautiful shots.) Plus posting daily, even for only 12 days running, is quite an undertaking.
Hope you are all enjoying the results and perhaps baking along as well. I’m already thinking about what we might do for next year’s extravanganza. For instance, only twelve cookies meant that I had to leave out a lot of my favorites. I wanted to include coconut, cornmeal, more nuts (darn, I didn’t include a hazelnut cookie), fresh herbs, black pepper, and so much more. So that’s the baseline for next year, but for now lets get back to this year’s game plan.
It’s hard to imagine a prettier cookie than this one on the holiday cookie platter. It’s almost a bonus that it melts in your mouth, fills your entire olfactory system with the heady aroma of toasted almonds, and just when you think perfection can go no further, adds an uplifting note of black cherry.
If most cookies have only a middle note (hopefully a very delicious, sustained note) , this cookie has a beginning, a middle, and an end note, each quite wonderful in it’s own way and each complementary to the other two.
In retrospect, I should have probably made these cookies a little smaller as they break my “three bite” Christmas cookie rule. However, it you are serving only one or a couple of different cookies, this size is just fine. Even so, you won’t eat just one.
Toasted Almond Black Cherry Shortbread
These delicious cookies are very short and tender, and barely sweet. They literally melt in your mouth and the flavor says toasted almonds all the way.
2 1/2 cups King Arthur unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 cup almond meal (available at Trader Joe’s)
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1½ cups unsalted butter, cool room temperature (3 cubes)
1 cup superfine sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
black cherry preserves (or other favorite preserves)
1. In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour and salt. Add the ground almonds Reserve.
2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar.
3. Add the vanilla and almond extract, and incorporate.
4. Add the flour mixture and mix on very slow speed very briefly, just until a dough forms.
5. Divide the dough into 3 equal portions and flatten each portion to a ½-inch thick disk on a sheet of plastic wrap. Seal the plastic wrap around each portion of the dough and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight. (The sealed dough can be refrigerated for 2-3 days if necessary.)
6. On a lightly floured pastry cloth, using a covered rolling pin, roll out the dough to 3/16-inch thickness. Use a little flour to keep the dough from sticking if necessary, but try not to work too much additional flour into the dough.
7. Cut cookies with a round, crinkle-edged cookie cutter. Using a much smaller round, crinkle-edged cookie cutter, from half of the cookies, cut out the center.
8. Bake at 375° for 9-10 minutes, depending on the size of the cookie, rotating pans at the halfway point to ensure even browning.
9. 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.
10. Put the powdered sugar in a shaker or sieve and sprinkle sugar heavily over the tops of the cutout cookies.
11. Put the preserves in a glass bowl and microwave for about 30 second, or just until melted. Pour melted preserves through a small sieve into a clean bowl, pushing against the solids to release as much of the strained preserves as possible.
12. Spread each of the uncut cookies with a thin layer of strained preserves. If the preserves become too thick as you are coating the cookies, warm for several seconds in the microwave.
13. As you spread the preserves on each uncut cookie, top immediately with a sugar dusted cut out cookie. The preserves must be warm in order to bind the two cookies together.
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.
Makes 2 dozen, 2¼-inch diameter cookie sandwiches.
Come Back for More
Here is the LunaCafe Christmas 2008 Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies initial post and game plan with links to the following twelve cookies. (Links also available from the right sidebar.)
On the 1st day of Christmas: Lily’s Swedish Vanilla Spritz
On the 2nd day of Christmas: Orange Vanilla Sugar Cookies
On the 3rd day of Christmas: Decidedly Lemon Teacakes
On the 4th day of Christmas: Once in a Chocolate-Spice Moon Cookies
On the 5th day of Christmas: Peppermint Stick Shortbread
On the 6th day of Christmas: Lemon-Lime Clove Sugar Cookies
On the 7th day of Christmas: Toasted Almond Black Cherry Shortbread
On the 8th day of Christmas: Green Tea and Rose Spritz
On the 9th day of Christmas: Almond Butter Poinsettia Cookies
On the 10th day of Christmas: Lemon Orange Pecan Thumbprints
On the 11th day of Christmas: Candy Cane Butter Cookies
On the 12th day of Christmas: Ellen’s Swedish Pepparkakor