If you’re looking for buttery, melt-in-your-mouth cookies with a nutty crunch, look no further than these cream cheese shortbread cookies flavored with toasted walnuts and orange. The addition of cream cheese transforms these from the traditional sandy and crumbly shortbread to lighter, softer cookies. For an even more cake-like texture, roll the dough into balls instead of using a cookie cutter.
The orange zest and extract add a welcome citrus flavor that complements the cream cheese very well. Plus, I love the way the flecks of zest dot the cookies. (I am obsessed with orange zest in cookies. It’s kinda my thing!) For even more decadence, roll out the dough into 1/8-inch thickness and spread fig jam or dulce de leche spread in between two cookies.
These light shortbread are perfect to serve at a wedding or baby shower, afternoon tea, or to exchange at a Holiday Cookie party.
Cream Cheese Shortbread with Toasted Walnuts and Orange Zest
Yields approximately 3 dozen cookies
1 cup walnuts
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6 ounces (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
zest of one large orange
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon orange extract (optional)
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with Silpat (silicone baking mat) or parchment paper. Set aside.
Toast walnuts on a baking sheet for about 8 minutes. Set aside to cool. When walnuts are cool enough to handle, coarsely chop with a knife or pulse in a food processor 2 or 3 times.
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour and salt together. Add the chopped walnuts, and stir to combine. Set aside.
In the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, cream cheese, sugar, and orange zest on medium speed until the mixture is light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl, if needed. Add the vanilla extract and the orange extract, if using, and beat on medium speed for 1 minute.
Reduce the speed to low, add the flour mixture, and beat just until mixed. If needed, continue mixing with a spatula until all the flour is incorporated. Do not overmix.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or until dough is firm. Remove from the refrigerator and place dough on a lightly floured surface and roll to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut with desired cookie cutter. Place on prepared baking sheet, 1-inch apart. If the dough gets sticky or too soft to roll, chill in the refrigerator until it firms up again.
(Original recipe method: Scoop out a small round of dough, about 1 1/2 tablespoons in size. Roll the scoop into a ball, place it on the prepared baking sheet, and gently press to slightly flatten dough. Repeat with the remaining dough, spacing the balls 1-inch apart.)
Bake the cookies until they are light brown around the edges, about 10 to 14 minutes, depending on the shape and/or thickness of cookie dough. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and let cool.
Adapted from One Girl Cookies by Dawn Casale and David Crofton, Clarkson Potter, recipe reprinted by the Cooking Channel
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