One of my most cherished childhood memories is baking Christmas cookies with my mom. She would pull over two kitchen chairs for my sister and me to stand on so we could reach the countertop and get our hands in the flour. We’d watch her line up all of the ingredients, preheat the oven, and prepare the cookie sheets.
She’d flip to the back of the recipe rolodex and pull out three cards that were stained with butter splotches and a dusting of flour. It was holiday tradition that we would start with spritz cookies, a butter/sugar cookie that was made special with the magical ingredient, almond extract. Once the butter was creamed and the sugar added, my mom would open up the tiny brown bottle of almond extract, and say “it smells like Christmas now.”
Last weekend, I finally got around to some Christmas baking. This isn’t one of our traditional family recipes, but let’s just say it was inspired by my memory and the “Christmas” smell of almond extract.
I’m kind of in love with these cookies because of the minimal amount of ingredients. And as far as baking goes, they’re pretty foolproof. I subbed in as many “healthier” ingredients as I could, but they’re still a pretty sweet and buttery indulgence.
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adapted from marthastewart.com
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup millet flour (or all-purpose is fine too)
- ½ teaspoon salt (only if using unsalted butter)
- ¾ cup powdered sugar or granulated sugar *
- 1 cup vegan butter, room temperature (I used vegan Earth Balance, next time I will try coconut oil)
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- Optional toppings – pistachios, pine nuts, dried fruit, etc
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
- Sift together the flours, sugar, and salt, if using.
- In a medium bowl, use a wooden spoon to mix the butter and almond extract together.
- Add the dry ingredients and mix everything together. Use your hands if necessary to incorporate the butter and get the dough to come together. Your dough will be pretty crumbly. Stop when it has just come together, don’t overmix. Form it into a ball.
- For cutout cookies: roll onto a nonstick baking sheet (I rolled pine nuts into the top of my dough), until your dough is about ¼ inch thick. (If the dough is sticky and you’re having a hard time, put it in the fridge for a little bit so the butter in the dough stiffens up). Bake for about 20 minutes, until the dough starts to turn golden brown. Remove and let cool almost completely before you cut out your shapes. You’ll have a lot of “scraps” with this method and will yield less finished cookies.
- For square shortbread: Press dough into an edged baking pan along with any toppings you like. I made a half recipe and used a 5×7 pan; my cookies were a about ½ inch thick. Since they were on the thick side, I baked these for about 30-35 minutes, until they started turning golden brown on top. The time will vary depending on the thickness, so just watch them. Once they’re done, let cool and then slice.