almond and orange shortbread cookies

I have always loved reading catalogs from my favorite stores like West Elm, Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel, and CB2.  To this day one of my guilty pleasures is leafing through pages looking for food styling inspirations and new props to use for plating.  I’ve been busy lately, but yesterday I finally had a time to relax with a cup of coffee, a cookie or two (or three) and my pile of catalogs.  Naturally, I found a few things I want so I folded down the page corners and left the catalogs conspicuously on the coffee table in the hopes my husband would get some hints for my upcoming birthday.  I wonder if it will work?

I was so engrossed in my catalogs I didn’t realize I had eaten three of these wonderful Almond and Orange Shortbread cookies. They are light and delicate, but full of flavor. I love the crunch from the sliced almonds and the bright orange taste from the flecks of zest dotted throughout the cookies. The dough will keep in the freezer, well wrapped, for up to three months so I recommend making some to have on hand for when unexpected guests drop by or for a midnight snack.  Just slice the amount you need and bake.

I love the simplicity of these cookies and they are delicious as is. However, to make them a bit more fancy, dip them in dark chocolate or drizzle the chocolate on top.

Almond and Orange Shortbread Cookies
Approximately 25-30 cookies

1 cup (8 ounces or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup confectioners (powdered) sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour* (I used 1 3/4 cups flour and 1/4 cup almond flour)
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
3/4 cup sliced almonds

*Note: To measure flour, spoon flour into measuring cup and level off.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, sugar, almond extract, and salt until smooth. With mixer on low speed, add flour and orange zest and mix just until dough forms. Gently mix in the sliced almonds with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.

Transfer dough on a piece of waxed paper. Form dough into a rectangle, 12 inches long, 2 1/2 inches wide, and 1 inch thick. Wrap the dough in the paper and chill until firm, at least 1 hour. At this point, the dough may also be frozen for up to 3 months, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap.

Heat oven to 325 degrees F.

If dough was in the freezer, let it thaw at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Dough should be cold, but not frozen, to make cleaner slices without crumbling. With a sharp knife, cut dough into 1/4-inch stick slices. Place on ungreased baking sheet, at least 1 inch apart. Bake until edges just begin to brown, about 15-18 minutes. Cool shortbread for 5 minutes on baking sheet and then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Adapted from Martha Stewart.

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