Cinnamon Shortbread Bars with Chocolate Ganache

It was a last-minute decision, but I cancelled my highly anticipated annual cookie swap to make a trip out East last week.

Instead of an afternoon of conversation over coffee and literally hundreds of cookies, I stood rooted to the ground in front of an incubator in the NICU of a Halifax hospital, transfixed by a wee wonder that was my new nephew.

I had traveled back to support my sister, who delivered a darling little premature boy of just over 3lbs. The days and nights we spent together were a complete blur, yet some moments replay in my thoughts as clearly as HD video clips, both the highs and the lows.

My dear friends were ever so understanding about the cancelled cookie swap. Suffice it to say, all the cookies in Canada couldn’t have enticed me away from that sweet baby. Some choices in life are easily made.

However, even though my plans to bake and exchange dozens of cookies went awry, Christmas is yet a week away and there is still enough time to break out the mixing bowls and bake a batch of these beloved shortbread bars, to share or to keep.

'Brown Eggs and Jam Jars' holiday cookie swap on Simple Bites

All images provided by Tim Chin Photography

The cookie swap of Christmas past

In addition to the recipe for Cinnamon Shortbread Bars with Chocolate Ganache, I’m sharing a couple of my favourite images from the cookie swap we shot for my cookbook (two whole seasons ago).

It was a beautiful event, and only a few of the images made the final cut, so let’s peek at two or three more, you know, for inspiration! Photographers Tim and Angela Chin captured the event so well, I can almost smell the spread of baking.

'Brown Eggs and Jam Jars' holiday cookie swap on Simple Bites

The cookie exchange is always one of my favourite holiday parties, perhaps because it is low-key, or perhaps because it’s a cookie lover’s dream.

It was a white Christmas that year, unlike the bleak, brown landscape that is outside my window today. As usual, the girls went all out with their beautiful cookies: spicy gingersnaps, tangy lemon glazed, buttery shortbread, deep, dark chocolate and many, many more.

Cookie Swap on Simple Bites

It never takes more than a few minutes to divvy up the spoils. In no time, there was nothing left but crumbs on the platters and the pretty name tags made by my guest, the super creative, Melissa of LostBumblebee.

'Brown Eggs and Jam Jars' holiday cookie swap on Simple Bites

The practical benefit of a baking exchange is obvious: all this variety of homemade sweets for the effort of making one.

Afterward the exchange, we sipped homemade eggnog and hot spiced cider accompanied by more cookies. Christmas comes but once a year, after all.

'Brown Eggs and Jam Jars' holiday cookie swap on Simple Bites

Cinnamon Shortbread Bars with Chocolate Ganache

I’m ending out the year with a beloved holiday baking recipe from my cookbook, because there has been precious little time in my kitchen this week for new recipe development, not to mention food styling and writing.

Shortbread dipped in dark chocolate has long been a holiday favourite of mine. These bars are my adaptation of the beloved shortbread and chocolate pairing—except there is no rolling and cutting, no tempering of the chocolate and positively no dipping.

Instead, I make a straightforward two-layer bar that triggers all the fond memories of the original cookie, with its soft, crumbly shortbread base and rich, dark chocolate ganache topping. Laced with spice, these bars typify what holiday baking should be: simple, sensational and completely irresistible.

Cinnamon Shortbread with Chocolate Ganche | Simple Bites

Cinnamon Shortbread Bars with Chocolate Ganache
4.0 from 2 reviews
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Recipe type: Dessert
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves/Yield: 32
Recipe from my cookbook 'Brown Eggs and Jam Jars'.
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup (175 mL) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ cup (125 mL) raw cane sugar
  • 1½ cups (375 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon (1 mL) salt, divided
  • 4 ounces (175 g) best-quality bittersweet chocolate
  • ⅔ cup (150 mL) heavy (35%) cream
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a 9-inch (2.5 L) square baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
  2. Beat together butter and sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add flour, cinnamon and a pinch of salt, and stir until evenly combined. Press shortbread into the bottom of the prepared pan and use the bottom of a glass to ensure it is firmly packed.
  3. Bake for 23 minutes or until the edges begin to turn golden brown. Cool in the pan on a rack.
  4. Chop chocolate and place in a medium heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, warm cream with a pinch of salt over medium heat until it just begins to form steam and boil. Pour hot cream over the chopped chocolate and stir gently with a heatproof spatula until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Let the ganache set for about 10 minutes to thicken slightly.
  5. Spoon the ganache onto the cooled cinnamon shortbread base and spread evenly with the spatula. Cover with plastic wrap and chill the bars for at least 4 hours or overnight. Loosen the sides of the shortbread with a sharp knife. Using the sides of parchment paper, lift the slab out of the pan and place on a cutting board. Cut into 32 squares.
Notes
You may want to bake a double batch to keep around for when friends unexpectedly drop in for tea.
These bars will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 8 weeks.

Wishing you the happiest of holidays, wherever you may be.

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée’s preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars – Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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Comments

  1. I bet your cookie swaps are a lot of fun! It makes sense that you skipped it this year though – babies don’t arrive every day 🙂 Can’t wait to try these cookies!

  2. I tried this recipe tonight and they didn’t really turn out very good. The dough and the cooked cookie were very crumbly. Is the amount of butter correct? Seems like they needed more to hold together. Love your blog. Thanks so much.

    • Hi Janet,
      Thanks for commenting. I’m sorry you didn’t find the recipe satisfactory! The shortbread base is very traditional, meaning is IS crumbly. It’s quite different than, say a sugar cookie or a butter cookie.
      I can assure you all the amounts are correct and the recipe was tested multiple times by a professional. It comes down to personal taste, I guess. My father is British and I deeply adore the drier, crumbly shortbread cookie.
      One final thought…is it possible the shortbread base was baked slightly too much? Ovens do vary so much, so it could happen. That would explain the dryness.

      Amanda from I am Baker made these earlier this year and loved them >> http://iambaker.net/cinnamon-shortbread-bars/ 🙂

      Happy Holidays and thanks for reading Simple Bites!

  3. Well, congratulations to your sister and brother-in-law! I am wishing this little guy a healthy and happy first Christmas!

  4. My 3 pounder was born 21 years ago on New Year’s Day. He’s taller than me and weight trains now. The tiny ones seem to make up for it in determination. Congratulations to your sister and Danny’s brother.

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