Before I reached the wretched and too cool for Santa junior high years, Christmas Eve was a night of gleeful anticipation. I would lie awake in my little pink room surround by my menagerie of stuffed animals and Barbie paraphernalia, dreaming of Santa’s spoils. The thrill of anticipation overtook all my senses. By the time the clock struck 5:00 am, the blankets were on the ground and I was off with cheetah-like speed toward the living room. In seconds, I savaged the simmering wrapping paper like a grizzly bear devouring its first meal after winter hibernation. The unwrapping frenzy continued unabated until Santa’s last gift lay strewn on the floor. For a child, Christmas induces a drug-like euphoria.
Now that I’m older and Santa is a distant memory, Christmas loot no longer generates sensory overdrive. Once Thanksgiving passes and my stuffing jubilation subsides, my cravings turn to the Christmas cookie kind. I still get the warm fuzzies recalling the spritz cookies of my childhood. The nuanced almond flavor is magical. It was Ali versus Frazier when my sister and I duked it out over the dough bowl.
Because I turn into a gorging lunatic around sweets, I limit my baking to special occasions. With a hectic work schedule, I usually manage to squeeze in one round of Christmas cookie baking. This year, I created an adult Christmas cookie. My lemon rosemary shortbread will not induce a sugar high, but the uplifting lemon and stimulating rosemary flavors bring on a wonderful satisfying contentment that mimics my Christmas spirit.
True Scottish shortbread is simply flour, sugar, and butter. The dough is not pliable enough to roll out. Because I wanted to celebrate the season and use holiday cookie cutters, I broke with tradition and added egg yolks to the recipe. I also added cornstarch to produce a sandy texture.
Wishing everyone a safe and blessed holiday season!
Lemon Rosemary Rolled Shortbread
8 oz. granulated sugar
½ cup fresh lemon zest (about 5 lemons)
1 lb. all purpose flour
1 oz. cornstarch
¾ tsp. salt
12 oz. unsalted butter
4 egg yolks
1 ½ Tbsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
Yield: 3 ½ dozen cookies
Bring all ingredients to room temperature.
Process the sugar and lemon zest in a food processor until the zest is finely ground. Set aside.
Sift together the flour, cornstarch and salt in a work bowl. Set aside.
Place the sugar/lemon zest mixture and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Using the paddle attachment, cream the ingredients together at low speed until a smooth paste forms; scrape the bowl at least once with a rubber spatula. Add the eggs and blend at low speed; scrape the bowl once with a rubber spatula. Add the flour mixture and rosemary. Mix until just combined.
Place dough onto a large sheet of plastic wrap. Form dough into a disk and wrap securely with the plastic wrap. Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator, at least several hours or overnight.
Place oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
Let the dough sit at room temperature until it is pliable enough to roll with a rolling pin. Roll the dough out ¼ inch thick on a lightly floured surface.
Use as little flour as possible; flour may toughen the cookies. Cut out cookies with cookie or biscuit cutters; cut them as close together as possible to minimize scraps. Rolls scraps into fresh dough to minimize toughness.
Place cookies on prepared baking sheets. Bake until cookies start to turn a light golden brown around the edges, about 15 minutes.
Remove cookies from baking sheets. Let cool slightly on a wire rack.
Store in airtight containers.
I apologize for not including a photograph in this post; I’m functionally illiterate when it comes to photography.
Dried lemon zest will not substitute for the fresh version.
These are best eaten slightly warm but they are good enough to freeze and eat at a later date.
---Authored by Wendy