It’s been a little quiet around here, but baking/sugar cooking has been happening. Next week I’ll have an iteration of my fave caramels, but for today I have these sweet and salty shortbread stars.
I love a shortbread. The dough is easy to put together, it can chill in the fridge or freezer for days, they are super buttery, and they appeal to children and adults alike. I also love that there are multiple ways to shape them–you can press the batch into a round pan for wedges, roll it up and slice as needed, or roll it out and use cutters.
I opted to do a star shape since I got it into my head that I wanted to paint a navy background, and wouldn’t it be cute to put tiny star cookies all over it, so it could be kind of like a magical-cookie-night-sky? Yes, yes it would be and it is.
These cookies are nutty, buttery, smoky-sweet & salty. I coarsely ground the almonds so there would be some crunchy nubbins as well as fine bits throughout each bite. I used smoked salt from Allstar Organics–I love this salt for it’s intense charcoal color, deep smoke flavor, and satisfying crunch. The salt really makes these cookies–it plays so nicely with almond and lots of butter. Since these are shortbreads and shortbreads are a sturdy cookie when well packaged, they travel like a dream. The salty-nutty and just sweet flavor of these cookies make me think these would be just as welcome on a festive cheese plate as they would on a holiday cookie tray.
*As usual, all opinions are my own. Allstar Organics probably doesn’t even know who I am, I just love their Applewood Smoked salt and thought you should know it.
Smoked Salt + Almond Shortbread Stars
adapted from Martha Stewart
There are many brands of smoked salt, Maldon makes a nice, lightly smoked, flaky one. I like the Allstar salt since it is so dark and contrasts nicely. You could also just use whatever salt you have on hand–there won’t be any smoke flavor, but the cookies will be delicious regardless. The cookies hold their shape best if you chill the cut cookies on the pan before baking–about 10-15 minutes will do the trick.
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup confectioners sugar
scant 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon smoked salt, plus more for sprinkling
1/3 cup coarsely ground almonds (grind in a food processor or chop by hand)
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
With an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar, extracts, and salt until smooth and combined. On low speed, mix in the almonds and flour until just combined.
Divide the dough and flatten into two discs. Wrap discs in plastic and chill for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 300*F.
Using one disc at a time, roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness. Using desired cutter, cut out cookies and transfer to parchment lined baking sheets. Sprinkle a bit of salt onto the tops of each cookie. Chill sheets in the refrigerator 10-15 minutes, bake 22-25 minutes or until cookies are just turning golden around the bottom edges. Remove and cool on a wire rack. Repeat with remaining dough/cookies. Can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 weeks.