Orange Almond and Dark Chocolate Shortbread

Woah…didn’t quite mean to take an almost month long break. Life you know? I’ve got a couple recipes to get caught up on and then next week I’ll get back on schedule (in theory).

Happy Saturday friends. No snow here but we’re headed out to find some in a bit.

We have an annual tradition the weekend after Thanksgiving to drive up towards White Pass in search of a Christmas Tree. We buy the $5 tag from the Ace Hardware in Naches, fill a thermos with hot chocolate and bundle the kids up from head to toe. We’ve been doing this every year for close to 10 years, driving deep into the forest past Clear Lake, to our special spot, bumping along a rutted-out forest service road.

When we finally get to our spot, the kids and dogs spill out of the car, usually fussing over a missing glove or cold feet but the fresh air and wide-open space takes over and within seconds they are whooping and hollering, running in and out of trees insisting each one they see is the ‘perfect’ tree.

Once negotiations have been made and a tree is agreed upon, we cut it down and load everyone back up to head home. It’s a tradition we all look forward to and I love to look back at photos from over the years, seeing my children as babies, bundled up in snowsuits, toddling tentatively through the snow. These days they lead the charge, darting up and over logs, throwing snowballs, making passionate pleas as to which tree should be chosen.

As much as going out in search of our Christmas tree is a tradition, so is laughing over the inevitable ‘Charlie Brown’ status of our wild tree. This year’s tree is no exception, full of big holes between the branches and one side a bit lackluster in branches. Somehow every year, the tree looks pristine in the mountains and always surprises us once it’s in the house. It’s all part of the charm and fun (I hope). I laugh thinking about what stories my kids will tell someday.

Once the tree is up, holiday prep goes into full swing around my house. And number one priority (ok not really, but it’s one of my favorites) is making lots and lots of cookies. This week’s shortbread cookie is adapted from Martha Stewart. I took the liberty of adapting the recipe a little bit, but that’s the beauty of shortbread, it’s a blank slate for whatever kind of flavors you want to add. Candied ginger and lemon zest would be lovely, as would classic vanilla. Dried cranberries and white chocolate is another house favorite. Play around and see what you come up with, you can’t go wrong.

Orange, Almond and Dark Chocolate Shortbread

  • 2 sticks unsalted room temperature butter
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon almond extract
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest (about 1 orange)
  • ¾ cup slivered almonds
  • 6 ounces dark chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons half and half

Make the dough: In a mixer bowl, beat butter, sugar, almond extract, vanilla extract and salt until smooth. With mixer on low speed, add flour and orange zest; mix just until a dough forms. With a wooden spoon, rubber spatula, or your hands, gently mix in almonds.

Freeze the dough: in between two pieces of waxed paper, form dough into a flat rectangle about 12 inches in diameter or until the dough is about ¼ inch thick. Put the cookie dough in the freezer for 30 minutes (or the refrigerator for at least an hour) before baking.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Remove dough from freezer. You have two options to create cookies. Use a sharp knife and cut dough into small even squares OR use a cookie cutter to make shapes out of the dough. Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet at least 1 inch apart. Bake until edges just begin to turn golden, about 15-20 minutes. Cool 5 minutes on baking sheet; transfer cookies to a rack to cool completely.

In a microwave safe bowl, melt the chocolate chips and half and half in 30 second intervals. After each 30 seconds, stir the chocolate vigorously until the chocolate is just melted. Dip the cookies halfway in the chocolate. Allow the chocolate to harden completely before storing.

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