One of my favorite parts of the holiday season is the opportunity to gift friends and family with a homemade treat. Whether it’s a cookie exchange with girlfriends, a token of gratitude for my children’s teachers or a little something for my neighbors; I like to gift something homemade.
Each year it’s a little different; but I try to think of something that’s easy to make but will feel special and decadent. I like to add a gift card to go along with the treat, but I love giving something that’s a small expression of my own creativity.
I lean towards an edible gift because my creativity seems to come out more in the kitchen than anywhere else. The internet and sites like Pinterest are great for inspiring ideas and tutorials. But, if cooking or baking aren’t your thing, projects like homemade candles, soaps, tree ornaments and handmade cards are fun and (mostly) easy to make instead.
Shortbread is one of my favorite cookies, especially during the holiday season, because there are so many flavor combinations you can add.
Shortbread is a simple cookie to make but so delicious. The only ‘trick’ to these cookies is to be patient long enough to let the dough firm up before baking. Dark chocolate and the zest of an orange add a lovely and sophisticated flavor, perfect for gift-giving.
Dark Chocolate Orange Shortbread Cookies
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together the butter and sugar on medium speed until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula until well-incorporated. Mix in the vanilla and almond extracts as well as the orange zest, mixing until smooth, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl as needed. Add in the flour mixture and mix on low until just combined.
Roll the dough between two sheets of parchment paper until the dough is about 1/3 to ½ inch thick. Chill until completely firm. When ready to bake, slice cookies into squares (should make about 30). Transfer to a parchment-lined sheet pan with enough space to spread slightly. Use a fork to lightly press down the cookies.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes until the cookies are lightly brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
Pour the chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl and microwave in 30 second intervals until the chocolate begins to melt. Stir vigorously after each 30 second interval until the chips are completely melted.
Dip each cookie halfway into the melted chocolate and lay on a piece of parchment paper to cool.