Saturday 21 March 2015

Strawberry Almond Shortbread

The very first time I remember baking something myself from scratch was from a children's cookbook. The cookies were meant to be butter cookies with a jam centre, and I had visions in my head of something like a jammie dodger, or the jam-centred biscuits that always went before any others out of an old fashioned tin of butter cookies. I made sure to get the exact ingredients the recipe required, sending my mother out for "sugar free jam" as the recipe specified (a effort to make the recipe healthier, my mother later explained).

I was thoroughly disappointed with the results. The jam had not magically become taffy-like, the cookies tasted of almond rather than vanilla and were fat rather than elegantly thin. Everyone else liked them, and I made them again, thinking that somehow I had just got the recipe wrong, but I only got the same results. My childhood tastes tended to prefer the machine made, super processed factory cookies to homemade ones it seemed.

When I saw a photo of these cookies here, I was reminded of that recipe, but my adult self thought this type of recipe was worth giving another shot. This time I went in knowing that the jam would retain its general state and that cookies would taste of almonds, ending up crumbly rather than crispy.

The base was a simply shortbread, so I put butter and sugar into the food processor with some almond extract.

And it magically turned it into this in seconds.

Then in went some flour...

And a few seconds later I magically had cookie dough!

I chilled it a little bit, though perhaps not enough given how much some of my cookies flattened out, then rolled it into balls.

And put my big ol' thumbprint in the middle of 'em.

Then on each of them went a dollop of jam. I didn't have any raspberry jam to hand, but Costco strawberry jam did the job nicely.

A few minutes later they came out slightly more disc-like than I had anticipated.

When in doubt, just drizzle on some glaze in a fancy schmantsy kind of way, and you're good to go.

I brought some to a friend, then carried the rest with me to pick up the kids from school. On the way back, we ran into my colleague who was scanning the shelves of our local Sainsbury's for something to put on a plate for guests coming round, so she got the other half of the batch (minus the ones my family consumed). She served them up later, only half pretending they were hers, but was forced to confess when they asked for the recipe!

So here it is, in all its simplicity (originally taken from Better Homes and Gardens, but found on this website):


1 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup jam
sugar for sprinkling
1 cup powdered sugar
3 to 4 teaspoons water
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract


1. Mix butter, sugar, and extract together until well blended. Add flour and mix until combined. Cover and chill for 1 hour or until dough is easy to handle.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/ 180C. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place balls 2 inches apart on lined cookie sheets. Using your thumb, press an indentation into the center of each ball. Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon of the jam into each indentation and then sprinkle with sugar. Bake about 10 minutes or until edges are light brown. Cool on cookie sheets for 1 minute. Transfer cookies to wire racks to finish cooling.
3. For icing, in a medium bowl combine powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon water and 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract. Add enough of the remaining water to make a drizzling consistency. Drizzle cookies with icing.

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