I’m so happy today to introduce you to Sam of Love, Cake. Sam’s an incredibly talented baker, writer, recipe developer, and food stylist, and from the moment my friend Jess pointed me towards Sam’s work, I knew I had to get her to share one of her confections over here on the site. She’s currently working on her first cookbook (!) and taking her tea and cookies with a few pages of The Goldfinch. After you read about today’s cookies–Shortbread Gems–be sure to go visit Sam over at Love, Cake to feast on things like homemade almond joy, gluten-free/vegan chocolate-banana-peanut butter torte, and orange-pistachio buns.
When the days are short, and especially around the holidays, my favorite present to myself is afternoon tea and cookies, served just as the sun is sinking.
I come from a long line of serious tea drinkers. I grew up in Connecticut, but my parents are from the island formerly known as Ceylon. When I was growing up we would take long trips back to Sri Lanka to visit my grandparents, who lived in a bungalow on an old hillside tea plantation.
I was steeped in tea culture there. Each afternoon, my mother, grandmother, and all the ladies would sit on the veranda overlooking the hills, drinking tea, nibbling on biscuits, and gossiping and giggling. Even before I was old enough to gossip I knew that if I poked my head around the corner at the right moment, my mom would tip a bit of her tea into her saucer and pass it to me. I would sit at her feet and slurp it, warm, milky, and sweet.
I developed these luxurious butter cookies, studded with pistachios, apricots, and dried cherries, as the perfect complement to a mug of tea, a blanket, and a book. Wrap them up and give them away to the people you love, the people you love to gossip and giggle with.
Chocolate-Dipped Shortbread Gems
Makes about 3 1/2 dozen cookies
For the cookies:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
3 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon coarse salt
½ cup chopped pistachios
½ cup chopped dried apricots
½ cup chopped dried sour cherries
For the chocolate glaze:
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
1 teaspoon coconut or vegetable oil
Make the cookies: In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium, beat butter and sugar until combined and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg yolks and orange zest and beat until combined. Beat in flour, baking powder, and salt. Add pistachios, apricots, and cherries and beat just until evenly distributed.
Divide the dough in half. Tip each half out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and roll into a 2-inch cylinder. (Two smaller cylinders are easier to work with than one big one.) Freeze cylinders until solid, at least 4 hours.
Preheat oven to 350°. Using a sharp knife, cut ¼-inch slices from one frozen dough cylinder. Place slices on parchment-lined cookie sheets and bake until set and light golden around the edges, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool completely.
Dip the cookies: Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Whisk the coconut oil into the warm melted chocolate. Transfer the chocolate to a short glass or ramekin (it should be wide enough to dip the chocolate but narrow enough that you have about at least 1½ inches of chocolate at the bottom). Dip cookies into the chocolate and transfer to prepared sheets. Let set at room temperature or in the fridge.