I don't know who first thought of adding dried red cranberries and green pistachio nuts to a
cookie dough but it was a brilliant idea. It makes us all look so clever during
the Christmas season, serving a plate of red and green flecked shortbread
cookies to match all our red and green decorations. As you may know, shortbreads are
the quintessential Christmas cookie, starting out in Scotland
as a Christmas and New Year's Eve (Hogmanay)
treat. The Scots really got this cookie right, and we are only going to enhance
it here with these
Cranberry Pistachio Shortbreads by adding
dried cranberries and crunchy pistachios.
While I like to place them in pretty containers to give as gifts, I always put a
few aside to nibble on with my afternoon cup of tea.
It is no surprise that shortbreads moved from being simply a Christmas
cookie to a year round favorite. With their buttery flavor and crumbly
texture, this cookie (biscuit) is hard to beat. All shortbreads, including
these Cranberry Pistachio Shortbreads, have
three main ingredients, butter, sugar, and flour. So, of course, with such
few ingredients, we must try to use the best we can afford. First, a really
great tasting shortbread needs a great tasting unsalted butter. Butter in
the States is
graded according to flavor, color, texture, aroma and body and one way to
tell the quality of the butter is by the letter code or numerical number
listed on the butter's package. The highest grade is AA (93 score), then A
(92 score), followed by B (90 score). I prefer unsalted butter as the salt
in salted butter can overpower its sweet flavor and can also mask any odors
the butter may have absorbed. Also, the amount of salt added to salted
butter can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer so it is hard to know how
much salt to add to your recipe. Another important ingredient in
shortbreads is vanilla extract so use a good quality "pure" vanilla
extract. Stay away from the ones labeled "imitation" vanilla extracts as
they are made with synthetic vanilla (from glycoside found in the sapwood
of certain conifers or from coal extracts) and leave a bitter aftertaste.
As the name 'Cranberry Pistachio' Shortbreads implies, we are also adding
dried cranberries and pistachio nuts to the shortbread batter. Dried
cranberries are soft and chewy with a sweet tart flavor and they can be
found in most grocery stores as well as health food stores. The pistachios
I use are unsalted natural pistachios, not the ones that have been dyed
red. If you cannot find unsalted then rub salted pistachios in a clean dry
dish towel to get as much salt off the pistachios as you can. I like to
roughly chop both the dried cranberries and the pistachios so you get small
chunks, not large pieces, in each cookie.
The making of these Cranberry Pistachio
Shortbreads involves dividing the dough in half and then forming each half
into a log shape (same method used with refrigerator or icebox cookies).
The logs are then chilled (up to two weeks) or, for longer storage, frozen
(up to two months). Once thoroughly chilled, slice off as many, or as few,
cookies as needed. Essentially, they are fresh cookies on demand.