I searched a long time for a shortbread cookie recipe where the cookie retained its shape and didn't spread out without using a pan. The base recipe for shortbread is simple, but it's about the right ratio of ingredients. I tried various ratios of butter, flour and sugar; using powdered sugar instead of granulated sugar; and freezing the cookies for longer lengths of time before placing them in the oven. The shortbread was good, but nothing worked in terms of the cookie keeping it's shape.
Then I discovered this simple recipe from Pauline at Mei Baking. I call it 3-2-1 Shortbread for the ratio of the three ingredients. It is 3 parts of flour to 2 parts butter to 1 part sugar. This recipe is so simple I can make it from memory. This formula works every single time and has allowed me to be more creative with variations such as this Cranberry and Pistachio Shortbread Cookie.
Not only does the cookie look pretty with the combination of forest green and jewel red, but it tastes good too. The pistachios are Iranian pistachios which I got while on a trip to Paris. I came across them in a specialty store called G. Detou and since I had never seen pistachios this shade of green I bought a bag. They are darker green than the pistachios in the US, but either kind will work for this recipe. In Portland, Trader Joe's is my favorite place to buy pistachios because of the price and quality.
The dough comes together quickly in a stand mixer. I chop the cranberries in a food processor so the pieces are small and will be evenly distributed throughout the dough. When I tested this recipe I left the cranberries in larger pieces and my cookie cutters more often got caught on the larger pieces cranberry. Also, I think the dough looks prettier.
After I cut out the cookies they go in the fridge for at least 20 minutes. I place the cookies on 1/4 cookie sheets so they fit in my refrigerator and then I can take them straight to the oven. At this point you can freeze the cookies for later. Place the cookies on a tray and then place in the freezer until frozen. Once frozen put them in freezer bags in a single layer. The cookies will be good in the freezer for about 2 months. When ready to bake, let cookies sit on the counter for about 20 minutes and then bake them.
Since the cookies bake at 300 degrees F, they are pale when baked. The cookie bottom is lightly browned and noticeably darker if you use a darker cookie sheet. Either way, you'll have a buttery delicious cookie. Just know that it's hard to eat just one or even just two. You can store the cookies in an air-tight container for about a week. I think these taste better two days later, so save some for later and enjoy!
If you're looking for more cookie recipes or ideas for the holidays check out these other recipes on my site:
- Apple and Tart Cherry Rugelach
- Apricot and Pistachio Shortbread Cookies
- Cocoa Molasses Spice Cookies
- Pecan Caramel Chocolate Bars
Cranberry and Pistachio Shortbread Cookies
- 4-1/2 ounces (128 grams) unsalted raw pistachios toasted
- 3-3/4 ounces (108 grams) dried cranberries
- 4 ounces (112 grams) granulated sugar
- 8 ounces (227 grams) unsalted butter room temperature
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 12 ounces (340 grams) sifted all-purpose flour
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Toast the pistachios for about 10 minutes until slightly brown. Remove from the oven and chop them.
- Place the cranberries in a food processor and pulse until cranberries are chopped into small pieces. I use a mini-food processor and pulse about 10-15 times. Chopping them in the food processor helps ensure better distribution throughout the dough. You can also chop them by hand.
- Place the butter, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and mix on medium speed until the mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes. Stop the mixer, scrape down the bowl and add all the flour at once. Turn the mixer to low speed and mix until all the flour is just combined. The dough will be crumbly at this point. Increase the mixer speed to medium and mix until the dough has completely come together. Add the pistachios and the cranberries and mix on low speed until they are well combined into the dough.
- Turn the cookie dough out onto a lightly floured surface. You can turn it out onto a large piece of parchment paper or Silpat. Use your hands to shape the dough into a rectangle and lightly flour the top of the dough. Do not use too much flour, just enough to keep the rolling pin from sticking.
- Roll the dough out to 1/2-inch thick. Use a 2-inch round cookie cutter to cut out the cookies. Place the cookies on parchment lined cookie sheet about 1-inch apart. Prick each cookie in the center with a fork. Pricking the cookies will ensure they bake in the center.
- Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes. Chilling the dough will help the cookies hold their shape when baking.
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
- Bake the cookies for 25-30 minutes. The cookies will be a pale golden color. They’re not supposed to turn golden brown. The bottoms of the cookies will be slightly brown.NOTE: I use a shiny cookie sheet. If you use a darker pan the bottoms will be a little darker and the bottom edges will be noticeably light brown.
- Take the cookies out of the oven and allow them to cool for about 5 minutes on the cookie sheet before moving them to a cookie rack.
- The cookies can be stored in a container for about 1 week.