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
shortbreads by adding
dried cranberries and crunchy pistachios.
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 with such
few ingredients, we must try to use the best we can afford. First, a really
great tasting shortbread needs a great tasting 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). You can also find European style
butters that have a higher fat content which you can use to make your
shortbreads. 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 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. I like to
roughly chop both the dried cranberries and the pistachios so you get small
chunks, not large pieces, in each cookie.
Pistachio Shortbreads: In
a large bowl whisk the flour with the salt.
In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter
until smooth (about 1 minute). Add the sugar and beat until smooth and creamy (about
Beat in the vanilla extract. Gently stir in the flour mixture just until
incorporated. Fold in the chopped pistachios and dried cranberries. (Make sure
that the nuts and cranberries are evenly distributed throughout the dough.)
Divide the dough in half. Smooth and shape each half of the
dough into an evenly shaped rectangle that is about 8 inches (20 cm) long and 2.5
inches (7.5 cm) wide. Then wrap the shaped logs in plastic wrap or parchment or
paper, and place in the
refrigerator to chill for at least three hours, or up to three days. (The logs can
also be frozen for about two months. If freezing, it is best to defrost the logs
in the refrigerator overnight before slicing and baking.)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) with the rack in
the center of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Using a sharp knife, slice the logs into 1/4
- 1/3 inch (.5 cm) thick cookies.
Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheet, spacing about 2
inches (5 cm) apart. Bake for about 15 - 20 minutes, or until the cookies are
just beginning to brown around the edges. Remove from oven and cool on a wire
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