One of the best things about Easter is that there is lots of specialty candy available and most of it is on sale. I don’t mind having egg-shaped versions of some of my favorite candies for a couple of weeks after the holiday – or before the holiday, for that matter. I picked up a bag of Reese’s Pieces Eggs, which I like for their peanut buttery filling and colorful, shiny shells, and used them to top of these simple shortbread cookies.
The cookies are easy to make and the brightly colored eggs give them a really festive look for, say, an Easter brunch. The shortbread recipe is one I wrote down in my recipe book some time ago, and it originally came from a package of Land o’ Lakes butter. Once the dough is made, it should be chilled for a little while because it will be easier to handle and shape the balls of dough. Each dough ball is pressed down with a finger (creating a fingerprint that ends up looking a little bit like a nest for the eggs) and slightly chilled dough will also hold the shape of the fingerprint much better than unchilled dough once it gets into the oven.
When it comes to candies, the brighter the colors are, the better; they really stand out on the pale shortbread base. I would strongly recommend sticking to hard-shelled candies – whether they are chocolate-filled, peanut butter-filled, nut-filled or anything else – even though the candies are added on after the cookies come out of the oven. The reason for this is that the candies still have to be placed on top of very hot cookie dough for them to stick, and an unprotected candy will simply not hold up as well. It will still taste yummy, of course, but it may look a little bit messy!
Easter Egg Shortbread Cookies
1 cup butter, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
hard-shell candy eggs (chocolate, pb, etc.)
In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Blend in vanilla extract. With the mixer on low speed, mix in flour and salt. Dough will first be crumbly, but will come together as you continue to mix (about 1-2 minutes). Cover bowl and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Break dough up using a spoon and, rolling dough between your palms, shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place on baking sheet. Press a fingertip into each cookie to create a small indentation on the top.
Bake for 14-16 minutes, until cookies are set but not browned.
Immediately after taking cookies out of the oven, press 1-2 hard shelled easter egg candies into the center (the fingerprint). Cool cookies on baking sheet for 1-2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies