Sunday, May 12, 2013

Milk Chocolate and Cherry Shortbread Cookies

I've been thinking about shortbread a lot lately.

Okay that sounds weirder when I say it out loud (well virtually anyways) but it's true. 

Good Enough for my Grandmother's China!
My friend Jill just came back from a "once in a lifetime" trip to Ireland. While the photos and stories of her adventures were really nice, I kept thinking about two things - Bailey's and shortbread cookies. She's a good friend because she bought me a large box of shortbread cookies back with her and I keep them stashed at my desk at work. While I was munching on them last week I thought back to some homemade shortbread I used to get once a year from a family I used to work with years ago.

Years ago I worked with children with developmental disabilities, identifying in home staff and creating goals for the staff to work on when providing services. As a thank you, many parents gave little trinkets or gifts around the holidays. One Mom always made these wonderful dense shortbread cookies and would put them in a these little plaid gift bags. You could smell the butter through the wrappings and there must have been so much of it in there because the  bag was so very heavy from the dense cookies. They would be hand cut little rectangles that were almost identical in size, stacked in rows in that bag.

The drive home from their house was about 45 minutes or an hour in rush hour. As soon as I left that house, the little pep talk inside my brain started. . . Okay just one little taste before I start up the car. . . Oh that was good, just one more and I'm closing that bag. Sometimes I would exhibit some self control and get on the freeway before I took another one. Just one more. . . Just one more. . . At some point, I lost any semblance of self control and by the time I got home they were all gone. Yes all of them. I shudder to think about the caloric intake or how many fat grams are in a pound of butter. Most of all I'm sad when I recollect about this that I never asked her for the recipe in all those years.

1 Whole Pound of  Butter - 4 Sticks!
In my opinion, good shortbread has to have a lot of butter and also a good amount of salt to add some flavor. I don't think I will ever be able to recreate that wonderful deliciousness without using the Internet to track her down and contact her after all these years so instead I decided to go with something different after finding a recipe online for a Chocolate and Maraschino Cherry Shortbread. This recipe called for dark or white chocolate and I'm not a fan. If I'm going to go with chocolate, in a cookie or cake, or on my ice cream in form of hot fudge, it's milk chocolate all the way. If you follow my recipes (or my revisions to other recipes) you know I'm a fan of almond extract in baking so I added that in equal parts with vanilla extract.

I found that my cookies were definitely pinker that the photos in the original recipe. I am not sure if the original recipe really was more of a candied cherry rather than a maraschino cherry. I chopped up a jar of maraschino cherries and did pat them with a paper towel to get rid of some of the juice but there was enough to stain the dough to a pretty shade of pink.

I also doubled the recipe. . . I figure if I'm going to the trouble to make cookies I'm going to really make a lot. Between kids and coworkers there is always a demand for snacks. I didn't mind doubling the recipe because there was no rolling or cutting them out - making a log and slicing it later is easy. Have I mentioned I hate rolling out dough and using cookie cutters?

Now doubling the recipe poses a problem. I have had this issue before. My mixer doesn't really like 4 cups of flour and one pound of butter but I forced it. I should not admit that but I am going to. I do that a lot and about every ten years I have to buy a new mixer. I think it's worth it. How did I force it? Well when it started bouncing up, I held the bowl down so it wouldn't tilt. Helpful hint, put the protective plastic guard on when adding the dry ingredients. I put in small batches of the flour mixture (1/4 cup at a time) and let the dough really incorporate.

When I got to adding the cherries and chocolate chips (isn't that pretty?) I really had to hold the bowl down. If you don't want to have to do this maybe cut the recipe back down. . . Like I said, I really like to make a lot of cookies at one time. Life is too short to watch my kids finish them in record time - all that work! By the way they loved them. They keep sneaking them when they think I'm not looking!

Milk Chocolate and Cherry Shortbread Cookies 


2 cups (4 sticks - 1 whole pound!) of salter butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
4 cups of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 16 oz jar of maraschino cherries, drained and chopped
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract


Using a stand mixer or similar equivalent, cream the butter and sugar

Mix the flour and salt, add in small batches to the creamed butter and sugar, until it starts forming a dough. I put the cover on the mixer and then put 1/4 cup batches of the flour and salt into the bowl.

Add cherries, chocolate chips and flavored extracts.

Form the dough into logs and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Cut the logs into 1/4 inch slices, placing them on lined or greased baking sheets with a inch of space between cookies.

Bake  in oven for about 15 minutes. If your cookies are pink like mine do not wait for them to brown!

Cool completely.



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