Buttery shortbread is an excellent addition to any cookie rotation. The tender, melt-in-your-mouth cookies are delicious when they are plain and you can taste pure butter in every bite, but they can also be a great canvas for other flavors and it is easy to put a seasonal twist on your favorite shortbread recipe. These Pumpkin Pie Spice Shortbread have a simple fall twist that makes them an excellent choice for holiday entertaining.
The shortbread recipe starts with flour, sugar, butter and salt. The cookies should not be too sweet because you want the butter flavor to shine through in every bite. I added my Homemade Pumpkin Spice Extract, which brought some rich spices to the cookies, including allspice, cinnamon and vanilla. While the extract does take a little bit of time to make (mostly because it has to infused for a week or so before you can use it), it is well worth it because it delivers such good flavor and is so easy to use. I’ve been adding a little here and there to any recipe that needs a little spice! But if you don’t have the extract or are working on a short timeline, you can use pumpkin pie spice in this recipe. The ground spice will give your shortbread a slightly darker color, but it will also have a delicious seasonally spiced flavor.
Since the shortbread itself is not too sweet, I finished this batch of with a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar before putting it into the oven. The sugary topping becomes slightly crisp in the oven and adds a nice texture, as well as flavor, to the shortbread. That extra kiss of sugar and spice makes the shortbread even more addictive.
This batch of shortbread is a good choice for a small gathering, but if you are entertaining a large crowd, you can double the recipe and bake it in a 9 x 13-inch pan instead of the smaller pan. The shortbread keeps extremely well when stored in an airtight container, so you can keep large batches on hand for at least a week during the holiday season, ready to serve to anyone with a sweet tooth who might be dropping by.
Pumpkin Pie Spice Shortbread
3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, chilled
2 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice Extract
or 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tbsp sugar + 1/2 tsp cinnamon, for topping
Preheat oven to 350F.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, sugar, salt and pumpkin spice extract (or pumpkin pie spice). Pulse a few times to blend.
Cut butter into large chunks and add to food processor. Whiz for about 1 minute, until dough has a very sandy and starts to clump together. Pour into a 9-inch square pan and spread into an even layer. Use a flat-bottomed glass to press down the dough firmly, creating as smooth a surface as possible.
Score dough lightly with a sharp knife, marking 4 rows by 8 rows of shortbread pieces. Dock the dough with a fork, if desired.
In a small bowl, whisk together sugar and cinnamon for the topping. Sprinkle the shortbread evenly with cinnamon sugar mixture.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, until shortbread is very lightly browned all over and is set.
While the shortbread is still hot and still in the pan, use a sharp knife or a bench scraper to cut shortbread all the way through along the lines you scored prior to baking. Allow shortbread to cool completely in the pan once it has been cut.
When cooled, shortbread pieces should break apart very easily. Store in an airtight container.
Makes 32 pieces.