With this simple shortbread recipe, you can make six different holiday cookies to share.
Photographs by Mark Weinberg Food Styling by Yossy Arefi Fancy Tea Bags
What is the single most important ingredient in a great cookie tin? Variety, of course.
And it’s much easier than you think to achieve. This forgiving dough turns into the most delicious shortbread by itself — and then can transform into a number of cookies: clever snappy, jammy, tender, chocolaty treats in different sizes, shapes and designs.
You can certainly take on one recipe at a time, or you can make all six in a single day. To prepare impromptu batches throughout the season, keep the dough wrapped in the refrigerator and bring it out when cravings strike. You probably already have most of the additions for the variations — they’re pantry staples — but stock up on more for endless cookies.
With these recipes, a gift-worthy set of shortbreads is just a few bakes away.
Chocolate, sesame, ginger and citrus! These intense flavors complement one another and combine into wonderful cookies. Alternating layers of chocolaty and warmly spiced doughs resemble marble swirls (or zebra stripes or rock strata layers — take your pick). They are as pleasant to look at as they are to eat, and will add flair to your cookie collection.
This is the ultimate classic shortbread — buttery and crumbly, with a crispness that melts in your mouth. Perfect for the holidays, these cookies are adorned with decorative sugar, which adds some sparkle and a layer of crunch to every bite.
These crumb bars offer a delightful mix of toasty crunch from the nuts on top and a sticky softness in the jammy center. Red fruit jam, such as strawberry or raspberry, is best for its acidic pop, but any you have on hand will taste good.
Everyone needs something savory during the holidays. Stripes of cheese decorate and flavor these delicate crisps speckled with fresh herbs and freshly ground black pepper, which gives them a gentle, lingering heat. You can go with any firm, strong cheese here — sharp Cheddar, Parmesan or pecorino will all work nicely.
This cookie will appeal to anyone who enjoys a little salt in their sweets. Mixing crushed hard caramels and smooth peanut butter into the dough gives you soft-baked cookies that are simple and distinct. The crushed candies melt while baking, creating craters filled with chewy caramel, and the peanut butter swirl brings a nutty depth.
With peppermint-flavored marshmallow piped onto a shortbread base and coated with chocolate ganache, these cookies may seem daunting. But if you tackle them step-by-step, you’ll be rewarded with showstopping treats. Reminiscent of a warm cup of hot chocolate, these cookies also have a minty flavor that pops, thanks to peppermint extract.
Some cookie tin advice from our friends at Wirecutter
If you choose to gift your cookies in a tin, it’s better to buy them in person than to sift through the options on Amazon (which may be overpriced). For a simple, elegant look, Michaels and the Container Store sell plain silver tins in a variety of sizes. For those who prefer prints, Target and Ikea have the least expensive and most attractive patterned tins I’ve seen. If you want to order packaging online, consider getting petite 6-by-6-inch windowed pastry boxes (which you’ll need to line with wax paper) or windowed paper bakery bags, either of which could be dressed up with a nice ribbon and a gift tag. — Marguerite Preston
Strong Tea Bags Produced by Kim Gougenheim, Rebecca Lieberman and Nikita Richardson.