No need to wait for a special occasion for homemade shortbread. These buttery rich, nut-flecked sweets are exactly what you want with a cup of afternoon tea. Of course, around the holidays, Christmas shortbread makes a fabulous hostess gift. You’ll also want these chocolate dipped pecan shortbread cookies on hand for your own entertaining .
Grandmother’s Homemade Shortbread
I talk often about my French Caribbean heritage because two of my grandparents were from the island of Martinique in the Lesser Antilles. My Dad’s Mom (Myne) is of Scottish descent (she was the first in her family to be born in the U.S.) At 94, she can still turn on her Scottish brogue when she wants to and though she didn’t do a lot of Scottish cooking for the family (probably because of my grandfather’s tastes), she did have her standbys. I suspect it’s her influence that has made me completely supplicant to these pecan shortbread cookies. That and the seam-stretching amount of butter in this recipe. I’ve updated her classic recipe just slightly for these pecan shortbread cookies.
Ingredients for Chocolate Dipped Toasted Pecan Shortbread Cookies
You can’t make homemade shortbread without butter. So if you’re looking for some “healthier version” of this classic treat — I suspect, you’ll have a long (and fruitless) search. There are 3 sticks of butter in this recipe. Not a typo — 3 sticks. 3/4 of a pound. #BreakOutYourFatPants.
- Unsalted Butter
- All Purpose Flour
- Sparkling Sugar (optional)
- Dark Chocolate
- Sea Salt (optional)
Christmas Shortbread Is All About The Extras
This isn’t a traditional Scottish shortbread (which I love), but rather an amped-up variation… a Christmas shortbread that gilds the lily with nuts, chocolate and sea salt.
I use deeply toasted pecans, chopped fine, to create a nutty — not too sweet homemade shortbread that is positively decadent. The dough comes together very quickly in a stand mixer or in a large bowl with a hand mixer. You’ll want to mix the dough before adding the toasted pecans. When fully combined, pat the dough into two 1″ thick rectangles, wrap and refrigerate for about half an hour.
Essential Tools For Cutting Pecan Shortbread Cookies
When you’re ready to form the cookies, place the dough on a flour dusted piece of parchment paper. Use a rolling pin to get the dough to about 1/2″ thick and then use a pizza cutter and something with a flat edge (like a ruler) to trim the sides of the dough into straight edges. You should have two rectangles about 3″ wide and 12″ long. Refrigerate one rectangle of dough. Collect the scraps from the trimmings and roll them into another smaller rectangle about 1″thick and refrigerate it while you work with the other dough. Cut the shortbread into 1″ x 3″ fingers (as shown). Refrigerate while you do the same to the remaining shortbread dough.
You can transfer the shortbread “as is”on the parchment paper to a baking sheet (as shown above) to prevent the dough from spreading while baking or space them out on a cookie sheet — where the dough will spread slightly. I did it both ways so you can see what each one looks like.
Use the flat side of a wooden skewer to make indentations in the cookies if you want that Walker’s shortbread look. Sprinkle with sparkling sugar (for presentation and extra crunch — it’s optional, but tasty).
Two Ways To Bake Homemade Shortbread
- For Straighter More Even Fingers: leave the shortbread on the parchment paper and transfer it to a baking sheet to cook. This will give the shortbread straight even lines and prevent it from spreading (much). When the shortbread is ready, let it cool on the pan for a few minutes before using your pizza cutter to cleanly cut it into individual “fingers”.
- Leave a bit of room between the shortbread (about 1-2″) and the shortbread will spread slightly. The difference is purely aesthetic.
Dark Chocolate Dipped Christmas Shortbread
The final step is to dip the pecan shortbread in melted chocolate. Use a good quality dark chocolate for these cookies — Ghirardelli, Lindt, Scharfenberger are all good brands. Break the chocolate into small pieces and melt it in the microwave in 15 second bursts, stirring after each.
Pro Tip: Transfer the chocolate to a container that is tall and narrow, about 1 1/1″ in diameter x 3″ tall (like a juice glass) to dip the chocolate in. This gives you a deeper dunking vessel. Dunk the cookies about 1″ to 1 1/2″ into the chocolate and sprinkle the chocolate with sea salt. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet to set.
Towards the end, you may run low on chocolate. You can certainly microwave another bar and continue to dunk, however, I like to drizzle the remaining chocolate over the rest of the shortbread. Do whatever works best for you.
These pecan shortbread cookies reminded me so much of my grandmother, that I had to call her to tell her about it, which got us into a conversation about family cooking… and her fond memory of her mother’s “griddle scones” (pronounced “skahns”).
“Have you made those for the blog, Lis?” she asked.
“Not yet, Myne. But I will.” I replied…. so coming soon…. Griddle Scones.
More Christmas Cookies:
- Christmas Meringues
- Chocolate Almond Florentines
- Brunkager (Danish Christmas Cookies) via Caroline’s Cooking
- Orange Spice Thumbprint Cookies
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- 1 cup whole pecans
- 3/4 pound unsalted butter (3 sticks) at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3 1/2 cups flour
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons sparkling sugar
- 4 ounces dark chocolate
- pinch flaked sea salt
- Preheat oven to 325°. Place pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast pecans for 10-15 minutes or until toasted and fragrant.
- Transfer pecans to a mini prep food processor and chop finely, but don't grind. You can also use a cutting board and knife to chop the pecans very finely. Set aside to cool.
- In a large mixing bowl (of a stand mixer if you have it) mix the butter and sugar until combined. Add the vanilla and mix until blended into sugar mixture.
- Sift together the flour and salt and add it to the butter mixture and blend on low speed until dough just starts to come together.
- Add the toasted pecans to the dough and mix on low speed until combined.
- Divide the dough in half and transfer to a lightly floured work surface. With your hands, form the dough into a 1" thick rectangle. Do the same with the other half of the dough and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Remove one half of the dough and place it on a lightly floured work surface. Gently roll the dough to 1/2" thick. Use a clean ruler to measure the rectangle. You want the short side of the rectangle to measure 3". Use the flat edge of the ruler and a pizza cutter to trim away the excess dough so that it measures 3" and the edges are straight. Use the pizza cutter to cut 1" slices in the dough -- so that you wind up with 3" x 1" shortbread fingers. Transfer the fingers to a parchment lined baking sheet. Note: if you space the shortbread apart on the baking sheet it will spread slightly. If you place the shortbread so that the sides are touching they will bake together, but are easily snapped apart after cooling.
- Use the flat end of a wooden skewer to make 3 slight indentations down the center of each cookie. Sprinkle the shortbread with sparkling sugar. Continue in the same manner with the other half of the shortbread dough.
- With the oven preheated to 325°, bake the shortbread for 18-25 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet to room temperature.
- Break the chocolate into small pieces and place in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high in 20 second increments, stirring after each, until the chocolate is smooth and glossy.
TO DIP THE CHOCOLATE:
- Transfer melted chocolate to a small, vertical container, like a juice glass (This gives the melted chocolate a deeper vessel for dipping). Dip one end of the shortbread into the chocolate and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. Sprinkle the chocolate end lightly with sea salt. Let the chocolate rest for 30 minutes to an hour until the chocolate has solidified.
TO DRIZZLE THE CHOCOLATE:
- If you'd rather drizzle the chocolate over the shortbread, place the shortbread on a parchment lined baking sheet. Use a teaspoon to scoop up the melted chocolate and drizzle in a zig zag fashion over the cookies. Sprinkle with the sea salt and let the shortbread rest for 30 minutes to an hour for the chocolate to set.
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