This was my first Cookie Swap, and let me tell you, it will not be my last. What fun! The ladies over at Love and Olive Oil and The Little Kitchen did an amazing job of coordinating all of us food bloggers, collecting our donations to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer and ensuring that all the moving pieces of an international cookie exchange went off without a hitch. Well done!
Not only was it fun to make secret batches of cookies and send them out to fellow bloggers to enjoy, but it was REALLY exciting to check the mail everyday knowing that mystery cookies would be arriving at any time! The results, both incoming and outgoing, were delicious. It also felt good to donate to such a great cause. You can learn more about the Cookies for Kids’ Cancer organization and how to donate here.
I really wracked my brain to think of the perfect cookie. It had to be really delicious, not too delicate and something that still tastes great (or even better) days after being made. At last, I settled on an old family recipe for shortbread, but with a few unexpected additions: fresh orange zest for a Christmassy flair, a deep dunk in dark chocolate and a fringe of finely crushed, roasted and salted pistachios. Sweet, salty, buttery, these little cookies have it all.
The original shortbread recipe (minus the orange, chocolate and pistachio) is a delight in and of itself. It’s not the pale, melt in your mouth kind, it is sturdier, more like Scottish shortbread with a golden colour thanks to light brown sugar instead of white. It is a simple recipe that can take on many small changes (lemon zest or cocoa or nuts, to name a few) and it bakes up easily. Ice them like sugar cookies for a real treat (they cut out brilliantly and won’t lose their shape).
Orange Shortbread with Dark Chocolate and Pistachios
If rolled to ¼ inch thick, this recipe makes 3 dozen two inch cookies, a bit thinner and you can stretch it to approximately 5 dozen. This dough is hampered by the use of electric mixers – you don’t want to incorporate air or volume. Hand mixing is essential.
1 lb salted butter, softened
¾ C light brown sugar
4½ C all purpose flour
zest of 1 navel orange
1 C dark chocolate (chips or melting wafers are easiest)
1 C whole, roasted & salted pistachios, chopped
In a large bowl, with a large wooden spoon, begin to work the butter until it is very soft, but not greasy. Spread and flatten it against the bowl with the back of the wooden spoon until it is creamy and very pliable, scraping down the bowl occasionally. Add the zest and sugar, all at once, and stir until the sugar is dissolved and no longer gritty. Add the flour, 1 cup at a time, incorporating it fully before adding more. After you have added the second or third cup, you may want to finish mixing with your hands. Once all 4½ cups of flour have been mixed in, the dough will be firm and uniform, not sticky, but only dry enough to crack slightly when pressed. Leave the dough to rest for at least 1 hour at room temperature – this allows for the flavours to meld and for the butter to be completely absorbed by the flour.
Once it is rested, roll the dough out to ¼” thick on a lightly floured surface. Cut out cookies in whatever shape you like. Traditionally, in our family the cookies are cut with a sharp knife into 1 inch squares. Then the tines of a fork are pressed into each side of the squares, giving them a ridged effect. Lastly they are pierced three times with the fork, making 3 rows of 4 small holes in the top. If you choose to make round cookies or other shapes, pricking them will help ensure that they bake up flat and smooth. Not pricking them may result in some bubbling and warping of the surface, however, I have never found this to be a major problem.
These cookies do not spread, so you can really load up your cookie sheet. Line it with parchment or if not using parchment, leave it ungreased, they are plenty buttery and will not stick. Bake at 325F for 18-20 minutes until the bottoms and bottom edge are golden and the tops are dry looking. Cool the cookies on a wire rack. Do not dip in chocolate until they are fully cooled.
Chop the pistachios finely and melt the chocolate (with 10 second intervals in the microwave, or in a heat proof bowl over simmering water). Dunk the cookies, shaking off excess (or dribble pools of chocolate on top) and roll through the finely chopped pistachios. Place the chocolate coated cookies on the same parchment lined cookie sheet and allow the chocolate to firm up.
To store, keep these tightly sealed for up to 2 weeks at room temperature. Fluctuations in temperature may cause the chocolate to ‘bloom’. All that means is that the chocolate may take on a chalky, white-ish appearance. No cause for alarm, it is just a result of the cocoa butter and cocoa solids separating slightly. They will still be good to eat.