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Celebrate with Christmas Shortbread

December 14, 2010

Even with snow arriving before Thanksgiving this year, the first sign of Christmas cheer came with the bright fuchsia blooms of my Christmas cactus, like little beacons reminding me I had mere weeks to do all my shopping. Soon after it opened its pink buds, my apartment lobby was decorated with a glittering tree and swinging snowflakes. The scent of pine wafted up the elevator shaft so I knew what awaited me before I even set eyes on it. And though the tree was a beauty, it was that quintessential holiday smell that enticed me the most. Now the rain has started pouring, the wind has knocked any remaining leaves from the trees, and everyone has started stringing bright, colorful lights against the winter gloom. Christmas cards are being delivered, there are sales galore at the mall, and Starbucks’ Gingerbread Lattes are a necessary indulgence.

All these things are ringing in the holidays, but it’s the tree that stands at the center of it all. Despite our request for a waist-high tree, my roommate’s parents supplied us with a six-footer, and though it’s a little large for our apartment, I’m delighted by its presence. Mmmmm that incredible pine-sweet smell. Good enough to eat?

Don’t worry, I didn’t bake pine needles into a cookie, but I did use a more edible cousin. Rosemary. Pair that with cranberries and walnuts and you have Christmas in a cookie. For those of you who think rosemary is solely savory or too overwhelming, I urge you to try this  Christmas Shortbread. The piney herb marries wonderfully with sugary treats and there is just enough in this recipe to tickle your taste buds, not attack them. Besides, there is enough butter involved to convince anyone.

Bake a batch for yourself. Then bake another batch to give as a gift. Then maybe a third because you accidentally ate that second batch too.

After making these by hand, I would definitely recommend using your food processor instead. I have a strange love for rubbing butter into flour, but there is so much butter involved in this recipe that my hands were sore and the butter too soft by the time I was done mixing. Also, I highly encourage you to get your hands on some vanilla bean paste. It’s so much better than extract since it contains the actual vanilla seeds in a thick syrup, so it doesn’t just evaporate out of your baked goods like alcohol-based vanilla extract does.

Christmas Shortbread

© Copyright 2010 Carly Sullivan, Tart to Heart


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries, rough chopped
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste or vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp raw sugar (optional)


  1. In the bowl of your food processor, add the flours, sugar and salt and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until crumbs form and the mixture comes together.
  2. Remove to a large bowl and add the cranberries, walnuts, rosemary and vanilla. Mix gently with your hands to distribute and form into a ball.
  3. Place the dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and form into a disc about 9 inches across. Make sure the disc has an even thickness throughout. Flute the edges with your fingers if desired and sprinkle with raw sugar. Refrigerate until firm.
  4. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Remove the chilled dough from the fridge and use a sharp knife to cut the disc into 16 wedges. Bake about 25 minutes until golden brown.
  5. While still warm, re-cut the wedges then let cool until set. These are very crumbly, so it’s best to use a pie-server to transfer the cooled wedges to a plate or box. Eat with your favorite holiday drink!
4 Comments leave one →
  1. Patricia McKennee permalink
    December 14, 2010 1:01 pm

    I thought I didn’t like shortbread until I had the pleasure of trying these right out of Carly’s oven – scrumptious, delicious, mouthwatering – words fail! And I’m a chocoholic! Do yourself a favor and try this recipe!

  2. Gigi permalink
    December 14, 2010 1:51 pm

    Please send in a package for your favorite sister.

    Thanks & happy holidays!


  3. December 14, 2010 8:56 pm

    You really captured the essence of the season and these were a wonderful treat! Yummy!!!!


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