Recipe: Baking shortbread will get you in the holiday mood

Traditional Scottish shortbread. (Sarah Dodge for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Sarah Dodge

Credit: Sarah Dodge

Traditional Scottish shortbread. (Sarah Dodge for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Although I didn’t grow up with a tradition of making Christmas cookies, it’s hard to not get a twinkle in my eye when the season arrives and brings fun decorative tins of shareable cookies.

A quick look into the history of the holiday cookie takes us back to the monks of the Middle Ages when they gained access to sugar and spices that we now associate with Christmastime: cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Although those monks were probably making something more like a crispy cracker or biscuit, the same tradition of baking something sweet that could last a couple days and is shared in the cold of the season prevails.

This year, I’m excited to start a new tradition with my 3-year-old niece making butter cookies and decorating them with all the icing and sprinkles she desires. I believe the true joy in holiday cookie baking is as much in the act and tradition of baking together as it is about the nostalgia of smells and flavors and, of course, sharing sweet bites with those we love.

For this week’s recipe, I want to share my all-time favorite traditional Scottish shortbread. Although I love my butter cookie recipe, this recipe is a bit more elevated with nutmeg, orange zest and cloves.

The keys to success with this recipe: First, use warm, room-temperature butter. It should be mayonnaise-like in texture. Do not melt the butter because that will yield saggy, greasy cookies. Second, cornstarch will help make light shortbread, although you can substitute rice flour or potato flour. Finally, slice the shortbread into pieces while it’s still warm, but don’t remove them from the pan until they are thoroughly cooled.

Scottish Shortbread

Sarah Dodge is an Atlanta-based bread baker, pastry chef and baking instructor. She is the owner of Bread is Good, which offers bread subscriptions to the general public and wholesale baked goods to local markets and restaurants.

Sign up for the AJC Food and Dining Newsletter

Read more stories like this by liking Atlanta Restaurant Scene on Facebook, following @ATLDiningNews on Twitter and @ajcdining on Instagram.