Tangerine Shortbread Cookies

In a pinch for a last-minute hostess gift or holiday bake sale offering? These zesty shortbread cookies come together in less than 40 minutes and have just four ingredients: flour, butter, sugar, and the tangerines from this week’s Local Box.

Don’t let the simple ingredients fool you; these Christmas cookies taste fancier than the recipe lets on. They have the golden color and tender texture of traditional shortbread cookies, but the tangerine zest in the dough gives the finished cookies a fresh flavor. You can use the zest of any citrus fruits you have on hand, though I prefer the mild sweetness of tangerine.

Tangerine Shortbread (makes about 30, 1×3 inch cookies)
2 tablespoons tangerine zest
1 cup butter, cubed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour

Making these cookies is a cinch.  The first step is to use the fine side of a box grater or microplane to zest the tangerines.  The chef in this video is demonstrating with a lemon, but the zesting process is the same for all citrus:

After you finish zesting the tangerines, pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees and prepare a cookie sheet with baking parchment. Next, combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar and the tangerine zest in the food processor. Pulse until the zest and sugar are combined.  If you have a stand mixer, use it to mix the zesty sugar and butter until creamy.  Then add two cups all-purpose flour and mix at low speed until just combined. The dough will be very thick and crumbly.  If you don’t have a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar in the food processor. Then, move the mixture to a separate mixing bowl and work in the flour by hand. (I did this both ways and needed to add about a tablespoon of water along with the flour to hold the dough together when I was working it by hand. The cookies turned out about the same both ways.)

Once dough is combined, pat it or roll it into an even, half-inch thick rectangle. Use a bench scraper or knife to cut the dough into whatever shape you like. (N.B. Go for easy shapes like diamonds, rectangles, or squares with this recipe. Since the dough is crumbly, it will not cooperate with foo foo snowflakes or round shapes. You also want to avoid re-rolling it since that will result in tough cookies.)

Gently move the cookies to your cookie sheet and bake in a preheated  oven for 20-25 minutes, until the bottom edges are golden brown. Remove  from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes on the pan, then transfer  to a wire rack to cool completely before eating. These cookies keep for  up to ten days at room temperature in an airtight container, and they freeze well, too.

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