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.