My parents are the champions of homemade gifts. Each year, we are surprised by incredibly thoughtful and creative gifts that they make. For example, the pencil holder my Mom made me after my first Ironman sits on my desk at work and I am reminded of her and the event every day. My Dad made me a beautiful wooden cutting board last year that I use almost every day and have posted about before. My craftiness is limited to making cards.... am I really their daughter?
This year I decided to tap into the one other "homemade" thing I can do - bake. My Dad loves shortbread, so instead of buying him Walker's shortbread for his stocking, I made shortbread from my new favorite cookbook - The Grand Central Baking Book. This Vanilla Almond Shortbread is simple and tastes just like a classic shortbread should taste. It would be easy to roll out and cut into a cute shape (say, a heart for Valentine's Day?) and doesn't crumble easily so works well for gifting.
Vanilla Almond Shortbread Cookies
From The Grand Central Baking Book
Yield = 4 dozen cookies
2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 cup (4 ounces) freshly ground almonds (not almond meal)
2/3 cup (2.75 ounces) confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (8 ounces or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Measure the flour, confectioner's sugar, almonds, and salt into a bowl and whisk to combine.
2. Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes.
3. Reduce the mixer speed to low, then add the vanilla and the dry ingredients and mix just until the dry ingredients disappear into the dough.
4. Shape the dough into two logs. To do this, first use a bench knife or sturdy spatula to divide the dough in half. Place each half on a 12- to 14-inch length of parchment paper, waxed paper, or plastic wrap. Smooth and pat the dough into a rectangle by flattening the top and sides with your hands. Then use the paper to help roll and shape the dough into logs 2 inches in diameter and about 10 inches long. Twist the ends of the paper to seal the log, then refrigerate the dough until firm, at least 2 hours and up to 3 days (or freeze for up to 3 months). If you are using previously frozen dough, defrost it overnight in the refrigerator.
5. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
6. Slice the cookies 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick and place them about 1 inch apart, in 3 by 4 rows, on the prepared pans. Bake for 20 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time. The cookies are ready when they begin to brown at the edges.