Walnut Shortbread Cookies
It’s been awhile since I’ve blessed your inbox with a blog, and I felt these Christmas cookies were a timely way to remind you I still cook and bake constantly. Plus, you probably have shortbread cookies around if you’re one of those wild Christmas bakers (you know who you are) that could use another idea beyond icing a snowman on your cookie cutouts. No hate to your snowman, though.
What’s the deal with walnut paste?
So I’ve had walnuts hanging out in the pantry for awhile now. Traditionally I’d grab them to chop up and throw into a chocolate chip cookie, but something was nudging me to make a simpler, more elegant cookie without the chocolate. Specifically, a cookie you’d eat in unison with an afternoon tea/latte kind-of-situation. That was the moment I conceived this idea to make a sweet walnut paste and slab it in between two shortbread cookies.
The walnut paste is an Austrian thing according to Google, but naturally I put my spin on it by adding cinnamon and dates. It’s texture and taste are similar to a cookie butter, but don’t be disappointed when you eat it and don’t taste cookie butter.
Ah, shortbread. It’s THE cookie of Christmas. I love its simplicity—you can eat it solo or completely transform its buttery flavor in a myriad of ways. It’s no wonder shortbread is the base to almost every cookie during the holidays. They also call it shortbread because it doesn’t have a leavening agent (e.g. a baking soda or baking powder), so what you put in the oven comes out almost identical. No rise = no surprises, which also means no distortion of shapes. How lovely.
Get baking already
Hopefully by now I’ve sold you on the idea that these walnut paste cookies are basically cookie butter inside two buttery cookies. Have I said “cookies” and “butter” enough to convince you these are a major W? You decide.
May this bake add to your holiday spirit in the sweetest of ways. And as always, may the inspiration found here find light in your kitchen.
for the shortbread...
3 cups All-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened and creamed
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
for the walnut paste...
1 cup walnuts, toasted
3/4 cup sugar
3 egg whites
1/2 cup pitted dates
1/2 tsp cinnamon
How it happens
1. Preheat oven to 325ºF. Toast walnuts for about 5 minutes in oven and let cool. Don’t turn your oven off!
2. Put all ingredients for walnut paste into a food processor and blend until evenly combined. Set aside.
3. Cream softened butter and sugar in a bowl. Add vanilla extract during the creaming process. Then, add flour and salt gradually to the mixture, scraping the edges of bowl with a spatula when needed.
4. Clean a countertop surface and transfer the shortbread dough onto it. Form dough into a large ball with hands (do not overwork), and use a rolling pin the flatten dough about 1/4-inch thick. Use a cookie cutter of your choice (like the Christmas trees I used here) to cut festive shapes out of dough.
5. On a lined baking sheet, gently place each cut-out cookie. Freeze for 15 minutes before baking. Bake* at 325ºF for about 18 minutes.
6. Let cookies cool and make sure paste is at room temperature to spread without breaking cookie. Spread about 2 teaspoons worth of walnut paste on a cookie and stick another cookie on top. Run your finger along the edges of cookie to create a clean look, leveling any excess paste.
7. Enjoy anytime of day! Best served with hot tea or coffee.
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* Note: It’s likely the cookies will look similar in size/color when done baking. Trust the process and take them out, unless you want an extra crispy cookie.