Ribbon Shortbread Cookies

I’m not going to lie.  I ate a cool 2 dozen of these cookies in the space of 2 days last week.  God help me if my personal trainer reads this.  But really, I blame it on the ankle sprain – I mean, I couldn’t work out anyway, and the cookies were just there, taunting me with all their delightful shortbready buttery-ness.  I’m not a saint, people.  I’m really not.


I think there aren’t enough benefits to sainthood anyway, so you might as well get off your duff and make these cookies.  Dance around or something while you make them, that will help balance things out.  Oh, and don’t think the freezer will save you from noshing too often on these, I ate at least a dozen straight out of there without breaking stride.  I originally was going to seriously gild the lily and dip the edges of these in chocolate, coating them with toasted almonds.  I still highly recommend that–if you can stop yourself from eating them all before you get to it.

The ribbon cookie concept is a fun one, and certainly one that is meant to be messed around with.  Change up the flavorings – go for neapolitan by swapping strawberry for the cherry, change out vanilla for almond – or just make two flavors, divide each dough in half and alternate the colors/flavors twice.  Since there is a lot of trimming involved in this layered technique, I also did a couple fun things with the leftover bits–some of them I baked up in little pieces, to use as an ice cream topping (except my husband ate them all immediately), and others I smushed together into a ball, and then flattened to make a round swirled cookie.  Go on, play with your food!  Then maybe give half of it away.  A lesson from me to you.

Basic Shortbread

  • 2 sticks + 2 Tbsp butter, slightly softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2.5 cups all purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or flavor of your choice)

Combine dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse a few times to mix.  Cut butter into chunks and add to food processor.  Process for about 30 seconds at a time, pausing to break up any large clumps and stir things around a bit, until it is just starting to come together.  Sprinkle vanilla over the top and continue to process until the butter is completely distributed.  Pour out onto a large silpat or parchment paper and press gently into a large round.  (You can also do this in a mixer, just start with fully softened butter.) Place the dough in a ziploc or wrap well in plastic wrap and chill in the freezer for at least 20 minutes, or the refrigerator for an hour.

Chocolate Shortbread

  • 2 sticks + 2 Tbsp butter, slightly softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Prepare as above.

Ribbon Cookies:

Prepare 3 batches of dough*.  For cherry dough, skip the vanilla extract and mix in 1/4 tsp cherry oil.  At the same time, add a few drops red food coloring, if desired. Fully chill all the dough.  Remove the dough from the fridge or freezer and let it warm slightly (about 10 minutes), until you are able to roll it out using all your upper body strength (don’t let it get too warm).  Use plastic wrap to keep your rolling pin from sticking to the dough–do not use flour!  Roll each flavor to your desired thickness – mine were about 1/2 inch thick, because I wanted thicker “ribbons”.  Layer the three doughs one on top of the other, rolling the top slightly with a rolling pin after each layer to help them stick together.

This is where the trimming starts, assuming you want even, square shaped bar cookies.  You can trim the entire round of layered dough into a square to start, if you want – although that may end up wasting a lot of dough scraps.  Alternatively, trim one side of the dough to a straight edge, and work across from there.  Slice down through the dough stack at the approximately thickness you want for your cookies.  My slices were about 1/4 inch wide.  Flop the slice over to reveal the ribbon pattern.  Trim the two ends to be square, and cut the length of the slice into approximately 3 inch bars (or however long you want your cookies).  Move the cookies to a baking sheet prepared with a silpat or parchment, and start again, cutting another 1/4 inch slice.  Continue until you’ve sliced the entire dough circle.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  If you want your cookies to retain their shape, pop them back in the freezer (on the baking sheet) while the oven heats up.  Bake for 15 minutes, or until the bottom edges are just starting to brown.  Don’t forget to bake up all your trimmings, too! Yummy.

Cookies keep about a week in an airtight container (I’m guessing, since I ate all of mine), and should keep a couple months (hah!) in the freezer in an airtight container.

*NOTE:  three full batches of dough ends up yielding at least 60 cookies; make 1/2 batches if you want fewer temptations.  As mentioned above, you can also do just two flavors of dough if you prefer – divide each in half and create 4 layers rather than 3.

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