Amaretto Shortbread Cookies

Amaretto Shortbread Cookies

Yesterday, I kicked off a two-part series on the potential first ladies’ favorite cookie recipes with Cindy McCain’s Butterscotch Oatmeal Cookies. The recipes are part of a Good Housekeeping tradition that asks readers to vote for their favorite cookie recipe every election year. With McCain’s cookies out of the way, it’s time to take a look at Michelle Obama’s recipe: Amaretto Shortbread Cookies.

These shortbread cookies are a little different than your typical shortbread because they have a lot of sugar in them and most shortbread tend not to. In addition to making them quite a bit sweeter than some similar cookies, this is something that could actually make the shortbread a bit dense and take away from its overall flakiness, as sugar caramelizes in the oven. Fortunately, this isn’t really the case here. The cookies are sweet, but because the recipe calls for cake flour instead of all purpose, they don’t become heavy as a result of the extra sugar. They’re not crumbly shortbread cookies, but they do still tend to melt in your mouth (thanks to all that butter!).

Amaretto is the dominant flavor, but the lemon zest and orange zest do come into play and make for an interesting overall flavor combination. The one and only complaint I have about the recipe is that the original calls for optional “chopped nuts or dried fruit” to be added on top of the cookie before baking. Since fruit and nuts can so dramatically change the flavor of the recipe, this seems a little open-ended. The GH photo seems to show the shortbread topped with pistachios, dried cranberries and candied ginger. In combination with the flavors in the shortbread, this seemed a little over-the-top to me and I ended up opting for only dried cherries on mine.

In the end, I can’t come up with a winner in the GH cookie bake-off. I like them both. And fortunately, with cookies, you can have more than one winner.

Amaretto Shortbread Cookies
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large egg yolks
2 tbsp Amaretto (or 1 tsp almond extract)
1 tsp orange zest
1 tsp lemon zest
3 cups cake flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
1/3 cup dried sweet cherries
additional sugar, for topping

Preheat oven to 325F and line a 17 x 12-in baking pan with foil and lightly grease(Note: a half-recipe can be made in an 8×8-inch pan with about the same baking time, if you don’t have this size).
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks, followed by amaretto and zests.
Sift the flour and salt over the butter mixture and stir to combine. Turn dough into prepared pan and press down into an even layer. Press cherries onto dough.
Brush shortbread with beaten egg white and sprinkle with 1-2 tbsp additional sugar.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until shortbread is light brown all over. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then run a knife through to cut while still soft. Let shortbread cool completely before reslicing and removing from pan.
Makes about 36 cookies.


  1. I rarely bake using fruit flavors, I really need to start. These sound amazing!

  2. yes, but which one TASTES better…it kind of sounds (from your reviews) that McCain’s does?

  3. They both taste good, and I liked both of them. If you like shortbread more, you’ll probably go for these. If you tend to like oatmeal cookies more, you’ll probably go for the others. I’m not going to pick one over the other for anybody! =)

  4. I usually love your recipes, but I’m sorry to say that this one looks very unappetizing. To my taste, shortbread should be dry and buttery. This one looks gooey. Just wanted to add that your marshmallows are my all-time favorite!!! YUM.

  5. I think they look rather tasty…but I’m not a fan of dry. LOL :-D

  6. Pat – Thanks for the kind words about my recipes. This one, obviously, isn’t actually mine at all, but from the presidential issue of GH. I think that the “gooey” look you’re getting is from the egg white glaze that is on top of the shortbread. I thought it was very unusal when I was doing it, and it definitely does give the shortbread a wet/shiny look. They’re not actually gooey at all, however.

  7. My mouth is watering! Thanks for inspiring us with your beautiful recipes.

    Cant wait to have a bite !! :)

  8. Wow, this looks good. Would you consider adding
    some amaretto coffee creamer? That would make
    it a little sweeter and give it another taste too.
    I bet the house smells real good when cooking this.

  9. I’m afraid I would have to agree with Pat. They do look a little gooey. For me not how shortbread should be.

  10. As a Brit I’m going to have to agree with the “too gooey” contingent. Looks a little like raw cookie dough.

  11. These bars look magnificent! Dried cherries are one of the most underused ingredients out there. I sure don’t have a problem with the way they look. Perhaps misnamed, but a great recipe is a great recipe. Thank you for this one!

  12. I love those cookies, look so delcious

  13. I made these last night and we really enjoyed them. I didn’t have the Amaretto so I subbed with the almond extract. While they do look like they will be gooey (not always a bad thing), they did not turn out gooey at all. But, my gang around here still enjoyed the Butterscotch Oatmeal cookies more. : )

  14. I can’t resist myself.. just want to taste it.. please mail me..LOL

  15. Cool. Bookmarked and will try to make it with your recipe.

  16. They both sound very tasty. Was the amount of Amaretto used in the cookies overpowering? I find it quite a strong sickly sweet flavour if used in abundance.

  17. wow, I’m going to have to try this recipe. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Great recipe. Now I’m starving!!! Thanks ;)

  19. Yummy… me please

  20. Sounds very interesting… Never tried shortbread that didnt taste like… well shortbread. Im definitely trying this one

  21. Tasty stuff! Thanks for writing, Not! :)

  22. I love the “gooey” texture to cookies. Things looks a delectable.

  23. Hi, while shortbread generally is dry and buttery, I love this new receipe which is gooey and delicious. I love gooey cookies :)

  24. Might take a little bit to make these I see, but I am sure it will be well worth it!! Looks good, right now!!

  25. I am going to have to talk the GF into making some of these for me tonight! Nice post for sure!

  26. Thinking the coconut looks the best!

  27. this looks delicious ! Will surely try it out !

  28. Okay I’m definitely craving for this!! It looks very delicious…

  29. very tasty! tried it out and everybody loved it!

  30. I got to disagree with Pat. Anyone whose mouth does not water at these yummy cookie recipes surely need to have their senses checked up by a doctor! :P

    Keep it up Nicole. Don’t bother with rude people who really don’t know what it takes to cook nice cookies! :)

  31. this cookies are looking delicious. Unfortunately I am terrible cook so I don’t presume to try to make some.

  32. These cookies seems to be delicious. I liked this new receipe and I will surely try it.

  33. Butterscotch Oatmeal Cookies .. Both Butterscotch and Oatmeal are my favorites, on top of it they have optimal sugar. Thanks for the recipe, I will surely try it.

  34. I can’t really imagine myself ever enjoying anything that Cindy McCain would make… these cookies, however, look delicious!

  35. Ok, now I’m hungry!!! haha

  36. me too those look absolutley delicious

  37. Those look great! I love shortbread.

  38. I love shortbread. Stop making me hungry! heh

  39. Wow! Looks really tasty! I want it!!! I can never get enough of good treats.

  40. mmmmm I think they look very very tasty and I liked both of them.
    Thanx for the recipe ….i will definitely give it a shot :)

  41. Its mouth watering.. I feel like to eat tempting..

  42. It looks good to me, only problem is, I can’t eat sweet stuff.

  43. They look scrumptiously sticky and sweet, which is great as I have a very sweet tooth.

  44. Wow! It is tasty! I like Amaretto!

  45. Yum, just the thing I need.

  46. Amaretto is the dominant flavor, but the lemon zest and orange zest do come into play and make for an interesting overall flavor combination.

  47. Oooohhhh, I love shortbread cookies and i know i’m gonna enjoy these too

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