Simple Shortbread: One Recipe, Four Cookies

Christmas cookies are everywhere you look these days. This month, magazines have devoted entire issues to them, bloggers and bakers just wrapped a #cookieweek theme on Twitter and cookbooks such as the brand new Gourmet Cookie Book are inundating us with endless options for sweet, buttery goodness.

Every year there is some new trend, some riff on a classic or old favorite, but it is rare that I am swayed. Sure, I try a few new cookie recipes every holiday season, but one variety that I am eternally devoted to are shortbread.

No matter how busy I am during the weeks leading up to the holidays, I always make time for classic homemade shortbread. This simple combination of only four ingredients – flour, sugar, butter and salt – claims to be the best cookie out there and I tend to agree.

If you are bored with the classic recipe, the good news for you is that there are many variations that you can make on the standard, as this type of cookie lends itself very genially to manipulation.

Here are directions for making four different varieties of cookies using the same dough. All are simple to make and don’t require the extra step of rolling dough and cutting shapes (although that is a fine option and the dough works well for that method too).

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Homemade Fruit & Nut Crisps

I‘ve got a love/hate relationship with crackers. They’re an easy entertaining option – serve a box of rye crisps with a wedge of firm cheese and a handful of dried fruit and you’ve got a fast appetizer – and are mighty convenient for handing out to the kids while killing time in a line-up. But they have their drawbacks too.

Excessive packaging, nutritional failings, not to mention high cost, keep me from frequently stocking my pantry with store-bought crackers. In the past, when the holidays rolled around, I would get tempted to stash an assortment of crisps and crackers for entertaining, but now I make my own, thanks to this recipe for homemade crisps.

Homemade crackers? Isn’t that a lot of work?

Yes and no. Most homemade crackers require rolling out the dough and cutting each cracker individually, which can take some time. These crisps, however, are first baked as a loaf, then thinly sliced and toasted – no rolling required. I’m certain even the novice baker could turn out a successful batch – and once you taste them, there’s no going without!

These highly addicting fruit crisps are delicately flavored with buttermilk & honey, scented with fresh rosemary and contain just enough nuts & dried fruit to complement the rest of the accompaniments on the cheese board.

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Chocolate Beet Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Lately I’ve been on a dessert kick where the main ingredient is a vegetable. First there was that Zucchini Bread with Chocolate Chunks, followed by the Pumpkin Cheesecake. I also baked a splendid carrot cake for my sister’s birthday and now – Chocolate Beet Cupcakes.

I’ve been skipping the baking aisle at the grocery store and taking my inspiration for desserts straight from the vegetable stand at my local market.

And why not? It’s harvest time and the season’s bounty can be used for more than roasted vegetables side dishes – although we love those too. Don’t you feel just a wee bit better about downing a serving of what is usually an indulgent dessert when you know it is actually crammed with nutritional value?
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Dinner Rolls Baked in a Jar (Recipe: Whole-Wheat Buttermilk Rolls)

Dinner parties have evolved tremendously over the last few decades and that is a good thing. Hosts are more health conscious, well-traveled and embrace a variety of ethnic flavors and cuisines. The standard all-white Parker House dinner rolls are replaced by something more rustic, more substantial, if there is any bread at all.

The dinner roll once graced the side plate routinely at the evening meal, but it is now less frequently present, as carb-conscious folks tend to swap it out for a salad. However, a perfect Thanksgiving meal should include a dinner roll, a healthy, flavorful, homemade bun, with a soft interior and a solid crust.

We’ll be enjoying these Whole-Wheat Buttermilk Dinner Rolls with Rosemary alongside our turkey dinner this weekend. A one hundred percent whole wheat roll that you don’t have to feel guilty about eating, these easy buns are softened by the addition of butter, lightened with buttermilk and fun to make with the kids.

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Stock This: The Ultimate Holiday Baking Pantry Checklist (Free printable!)

For many of us, holiday baking is about to start. Canadian Thanksgiving is just three weeks away and after that, well, it is time to start cracking nuts for the Christmas fruitcakes.

In the minds of many bakers, myself included, ideas are already being formed about shortbread flavorings, pie fillings and cookie shapes. It won’t be long before those ideas will evolve into solid plans, and sooner or later, a grocery list will be started for those items essential to holiday baking.

Every year I make the same, lengthy handwritten list of baking ingredients, and yes, while it is a small part of the fun (I love lists), I have to admit it does take a lot of time. Not to mention that something inevitably gets omitted by mistake, causing unnecessary stress and wasted time come baking day, or worse yet, on the holiday itself!

No one likes to be in the grocery store, frantically searching for that one elusive item when they should be at home, basting the turkey, so this year I decided to make a digital list, one that I can print, bring on my shopping rounds with me, and be sure to stay organized. Luckily for you, I’m sharing! [Read more…]