Cranberry Swirl Shortbread

So, one week until Christmas! I’m equal parts thrilled and terrified at the thought. I don’t know about you guys, but I am not ready yet. I think I’ve finished about 2/3 of the shopping, but I haven’t wrapped a single gift yet. Decorations are finally up at least; did I tell you we bought a little Charlie Brown tree this year? We always buy a real tree, but because we’re not hosting this year and also because we were so late to get out and pick up a tree, we decided to just do a tiny one. It’s actually pretty cute, and I haven’t had to vacuum up a single needle so that’s been a major perk :) I still miss having a full-size tree so we’ll have to get our act together a little earlier next year.

Cranberry Swirl Shortbread

Luckily I am feeling a little more on the ball when it comes to the holiday baking. I’ve decided what I’m going to make, and have a plan, so it’s just a matter of executing it in the next week. I’m looking forward to two or three full days in the kitchen with my Christmas playlist on repeat, easily one of the best parts of the holiday season!

As much as I love making all things peppermint, gingerbread, and cranberry in December, I have to confess that the humble shortbread cookie is one that always gets me really excited. Just a few simple ingredients but oh man, are they good! So buttery and just slightly crumbly, cookie perfection in my book. Plus because they’re such a blank slate they lend themselves to lots of variation. Here we’re sandwiching a sweetened cranberry puree between the layers of shortbread, and also adding a decorative swirl on top. The cranberries add just a hint of tartness to this cookie and their vibrant red color helps dress the shortbread up for the holidays :)

Cranberry Swirl Shortbread

Don’t be afraid of the seemingly long instructions below, these cookies are not difficult! I included a collage illustrating the various stages of assembly, so hopefully that makes the process even more clear.

PS – Last day to enter the Kindle Paperwhite giveaway! Details here.

Cranberry Swirl Shortbread
from America’s Test Kitchen Christmas Cookies

1 cup (4 oz) cranberries (fresh or frozen will work)
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) granulated sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups (10 oz) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (2 oz) confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
14 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Cranberry Swirl Shortbread

Add the cranberries, 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar, the orange zest, orange juice, and cinnamon to a medium saucepan. Set over medium-high heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the cranberries have burst and the juices in the pan just start to thicken. This should only take about 3-4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool completely, about 1 hour.

To the bowl of your food processor, add the flour, confectioners’ sugar, salt, and the remaining 1/4 cup of granulated sugar. Pulse a few times just to combine. Add the cold butter cubes, scattering them evenly, then process the dough for about 1 minute, or until it just starts to come together. Turn the dough out onto your work surface and knead a few times to incorporate any dry, floury bits. Divide the dough into two equal pieces (I used my scale to make sure they were the same size) and, working on a sheet of parchment for each, roll each half into a circle about 9-inches in diameter. Transfer the dough circles to the refrigerator and chill for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 F. Add the cooled cranberry mixture to the food processor (no need to wash it after making the dough) and pulse until the mixture is smooth.

Press one of the dough circles into a 9-inch tart pan. Use a fork to poke holes all over the surface of the dough. Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, or until the edges of the dough are golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven and spread 1/4 cup of the cranberry mixture evenly over the surface. Place the second dough circle on top and press to fit. Again, use a fork to poke holes all over the surface of the dough.

Transfer the remaining cranberry mixture to a small plastic bag and snip a hole in the corner. Pipe the cranberry mixture into a spiral pattern over the top of the dough. Use a paring knife to lightly score the dough into 16 equal wedges. Lightly run the knife between the score marks in the opposite direction to create the swirl effect. Bake for about 25-28 minutes, or until the shortbread is golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the shortbread to cool for 10 minutes, then carefully remove the outer ring. Using a sharp knife, cut the shortbread into wedges using the score marks. Transfer the wedges to a wire rack and allow to cool completely before serving.