Happy Friday, cookie monsters! It's the final day of my bake-a-thon, and I am beat (ha).
This last little cookie is a real show-stopper that I found online at bhg.com. They're called White-Chocolate Cherry Shortbreads, but they also have a slight amaretto quality to them due to a shot of almond extract. They're super-rich and taste a bit like cherry cheesecake. In short, my, my, they're outstanding. I was looking for something really different in flavor and appearance from the other items going in my gift boxes, which are mostly shades of brown. This hot little pink number really fit the bill, and they taste professional-bakery-fancy.
Now, time for a heart-to-heart: these cookies are kind of a pain in the hiney to make. First, you have to chop maraschino cherries, which are sticky, and not as easy to swish through with your knife as you'd think. They also have to be drained on several layers of paper towels, and their juice can stain. Proceed with caution. But chop the cherries, because the cookies will be delicious.
Then, you have to chop chocolate. I hate chopping it, but I've learned not to use the food processor; the heat from the motor will melt it. Just break out the knife and have at it. I do have a little bit of a step saver, here: the original recipe calls for 12 ounces, finely chopped, but you really only need to chop 4 ounces (the amount that goes in the cookie dough). So chop the chocolate, because the cookies will be divine.
Then, you have to cut the butter into the flour with a pastry blender, or at least the recipe says so. I think you could do this step by pulsing the flour, sugar, and butter in a food processor, and then remove the crumbs to a bowl to mix in the remaining ingredients. If I make these again--which I'm planning to, for Valentine's Day--I'll try the processor. I was about ready to give up the game by the end of cutting all that stupid butter in, though secretly I was trying to figure out how many calories I burned while doing it. So do it, by hand or by machine, because the cookies will be wonderful.
After that, the rest is pretty easy. You knead the crumbs into a dough by squeezing it together with your hands (you can do this right inside the bowl) until it comes together. At first, it may seem like achieving a dough wouldn't be possible, but the heat of your hands will calm the butter and chocolate down eventually and it will blend; don't be tempted to add any more liquid. This is a true shortbread dough, with no leavening of any kind, so the cookies aren't going to spread much at all when they bake. For that reason, try to roll the dough into balls a little less than 1-inch in size, and flatten them to 1/4" thickness if possible. Otherwise, the centers may still be a little too doughy after they're baked. As far as dipping them in white chocolate goes, they're pretty, but the dipped ones were a little too much for me. Too sweet, too rich, too too too. That may be due to eating far more than a respectable share of cookies over the past week, but I think the naked ones are more alluring.
Happy baking, happy eating, happy sharing...happy Christmas!
white chocolate cherry shortbread (adapted from bgh.com)
- 1/2 cup maraschino cherries, drained, finely chopped
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
- 4 ounces white chocolate baking squares with cocoa butter, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 drops red food coloring (optional) (I used it)
for optional dipping:
- 8 ounces white chocolate baking squares with cocoa butter
- 2 teaspoons vegetable shortening
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spread chopped cherries out on paper towels to drain well.
- In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in the drained cherries and chopped chocolate. Stir in almond extract and, if using, the food coloring. Knead mixture in the bowl with your hands (squish and squeeze the dough together) until it forms a smooth ball.
- Shape dough into 3/4" balls and place 2" apart on ungreased baking sheets (I lined mine with parchment). Using the bottom of a drinking glass dipped in sugar, flatten the balls to 1 1/2" rounds.
- Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until centers are set (I'd err on the long side rather than underbaking). Cool for 1 minute on cookie sheet, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
- You've made 60 amazingly yummy cookies! Stop now, or...
- gild the lily by melting together 8 ounces white chocolate and 2 teaspoons vegetable shortening in a small saucepan over low heat. Dip half of each cookie into melted chocolate, letting excess run off. Let dry on waxed or parchment paper.
makes about 60