There’s just something special about shortbread. I’ve always had a soft spot for its buttery goodness, mild sweetness, and subtle crunch.
Similarly, my dad always loved the store-bought Pecan Sandies, and I did, too. They weren’t overly sweet and certainly didn’t hold the chocolatey appeal of a Fudge Stripe or an Oreo, but their plainness was (is!) oddly satisfying.
This version of the traditional shortbread cookie tastes great with minimal sugar and far less butter than the classic version. Almond flour replaces the customary all-purpose flour to create an option that not only tastes great but packs a protein punch. What’s more, these little gems are gluten-free and super quick to mix up. The sheer ease of this recipe makes it perfect for those who are new to gluten/grain-free baking or those who simply want a quick dessert that won’t break the nutritional bank.
Yields 16 cookies.
- 1 cup (112 grams) blanched almond flour (not the heartier meal with dark pieces of skin in it)
- 3 tablespoons softened butter (very soft but not melted)
- 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- Optional: 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium-size bowl, mix all of the ingredients until a cohesive dough forms. I find this easiest to do with a dinner fork.
Separate the dough into fourths and then into fourths again. You will have 16 pieces. My son usually eats one at this point. : ) Roll into balls (they will be about 1” in diameter) and place on the prepared baking sheet. Leave a little space between the cookies for the next step, although they will not spread too much during baking.
Use a fork to flatten each cookie to about 1/4″ thick, making a crosshatch design.
Bake the cookies for 7 to 9 minutes, or until they have a hint of golden brown color on top. (Check a minute early and watch carefully until you know how long they take in your oven. Like whole nuts, nut flours tend to brown quickly at the end.)
Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool on the pan for 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely before serving or, once completely cool, place in an airtight container for storing.
- *Variations and tips from bakers of the original recipe:*
- You can bake these cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet instead of the parchment-lined sheet. Just be sure to transfer the cookies to a rack about 2 to 3 minutes after they come out of the oven; they’ll still be warm and fairly fragile, but if left to cool on the ungreased pan too long, they’ll stick.
- *For thumbprint cookies:* Instead of creating a crosshatch design with a fork, use your thumb to press an indentation into the center of each ball of dough. Fill the hole with about 1/4 teaspoon jam. Note: too much jam will boil out during baking.
- *For Maple Pecan Shortbread Cookies:* Add 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons maple syrup, and 1/3 cup diced pecans to the dough. Shape the dough into a log, chill, slice, and bake; or bake as directed above.
- *For Chocolate Pistachio Shortbread Cookies:* Substitute 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder for 2 tablespoons of the almond flour; and add 1/8 teaspoon of espresso powder. Stir in 1/4 cup finely chopped pistachios. Shape the dough into a log, chill, slice, and bake for 12 minutes, give or take a minute or two; or bake as directed above.
- *For Cranberry-Orange Shortbread Cookies:* Add 1/2 teaspoon orange zest and 1/4 cup dried cranberries to the dough. Shape the dough into a log, chill, slice, and bake for 12 minutes, give or take a minute or two; or bake as directed at right.