This grain-free shortbread is easy to make in just one bowl without getting out the mixer. The cookies are addictively crunchy around the edges and chewy in the middle, and their subtly spiced flavor is perfect for the holidays.
My mom sent our Christmas presents down early and told us we didn’t have to wait until the big day to open them. Mine was a copy of Ruth Reichl’s newest book, My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes that Saved My Life, which centers around what Reichl cooked after the sudden closure of Gourmet magazine.
I was only about 3 pages in when I felt tears welling up in my eyes. When Ben asked what was wrong, at the time I had to admit that I was crying over the end of a magazine that I had subscribed to for just under 12 months, during its very last year in 2009.
In retrospect, it probably wasn’t just that. There’s something about the holidays that brings my natural tendency toward nostalgia right to the surface. I think I was really crying because change is hard, and the book reminded me of that fact in a sudden and poignant way. I love being here in Chattanooga, but wish I could simultaneously be in Massachusetts and see my family for the holidays.
Reichl says in her book that “when you pay attention, cooking becomes a kind of meditation.” That’s definitely how it feels for me whenever I can manage not to rush.
These grain-free spiced shortbread cookies are perfect for that. It only takes one big bowl and a few minutes to make a fragrant ball of dough that will keep covered in the fridge for several days, and you can roll out and bake off the cookies a few at a time. I’ve been baking versions of this shortbread for two weeks now–it’s keeping me grounded and my coworkers love it, too. The rolling and cutting of gently spiced cookie dough has a uniquely calming effect, and the finished shortbread cookies are crunchy around the edges, chewy in the middle, and buttery and irresistible throughout.
Whether you try this recipe as a meditation or just because you need cookies, I hope you love them as much as I do!
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature (I use Kerrygold)
- ½ cup raw sugar, plus more for topping the cookies*
- 2 pinches of flaky sea salt
- ⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2¼ cups lightly packed almond flour
- ¾ cup tapioca flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
- Cream the butter, sugar, salt, spices, and vanilla in a large bowl until soft and thoroughly mixed. I do this by hand with a fork, but a mixer would make shorter work of it.
- Add the flours and mix with a spatula or your hands until the dough comes together. Make the dough into a large ball and refrigerate it, covered, for at least 30 minutes.
- Dust two pieces of parchment paper, a rolling pin, and the ball of dough with a little tapioca flour. Roll the dough out between the pieces of parchment paper until it's between ½ inch and ¼ inch thick.
- Using a knife or pizza cutter, trim the uneven edges of the dough to form a large rectangle, saving the scraps to reroll later. Cut the large piece of dough into smaller rectangles, about ¾ inch wide and 2½ inches long. If desired, pierce each piece twice with the tines of a fork. Don't try to separate the cookies yet!
- Put the dough on a baking sheet and freeze for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 days.
- When you're ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 325°F. Remove the cookies from the freezer and gently break them apart, waiting a few minutes for them to thaw a bit if necessary. Place them at least 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. If desired, coat each cookie in a little sugar (I put the sugar on a shallow plate and gently push the top of the cookie into it).
- Bake the cookies for 14-18 minutes, rotating the baking sheets once about halfway through the baking time. Remove the cookies when they have a very slight golden color around the edges if you prefer chewier cookies. If you like more crunch, let them bake until they're a rich golden brown around the edges.
- Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for at least 15 minutes, and then carefully transfer them to a rack to cool completely. You can also let them cool completely on the pan if you don't need that pan to make the next round of cookies! Enjoy at room temperature.
- Leftover cookies will keep for several days in an airtight container on the counter.
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