Crisp and buttery with a hint of tartness, these tasty Cranberry Orange Shortbread Cookies will brighten up your holiday cookie tray. And be sure to check out the end of the post for more #Christmascookies week recipes from my blogging friends!
Sometime, don’t you just need a simple recipe that can do double duty? Yes, that’s what I like about these Cranberry Orange Shortbread Cookies. The tasty treats are simple to make but you can also change up their look with very little effort.
Going basic, the orange and burgundy flecked cookies are lovely, just sliced and baked unadorned. But top them with green sugar, or roll them in chopped pecans and they take on a new look entirely. If you do 2-3 varieties, you can even produce a cheater cookie tray (shhh).
Not that anyone would need a shortcut around the holidays…
What is Shortbread
Per Wikipedia, “Shortbread or shortie is a traditional Scottish biscuit usually made from one part white sugar, two parts butter, and three to four parts plain wheat flour… Shortbread is widely associated with Christmas and Hogmanay festivities in Scotland, and some Scottish brands are exported around the world.”
While traditional shortbread was plain or caraway flavored, today many cooks enjoy experimenting with a variety of add-ins. I have also made an award-winning lavender shortbread as well as a colorful funfetti shortbread.
Why You’ll Love This!
Easy. Mix up a few ingredients, roll into a log, refrigerate, slice off cookies and bake. How easy is that!
Versatile. This one cookie can take on multiple looks—great if you want some variety but don’t have much time!
What You’ll Need
- Butter. This lends buttery flavor and helps the shortbread hold together.
- Sugar. This adds sweetness and body. I used a white sugar to help keep the shortbread color light.
- Vanilla extract. This adds flavor.
- All-purpose flour. This comprises the main body of the shortbread. I use all purpose to help keep the shortbread color and flavor light. You could also use a pastry flour.
- Cornstarch. This helps shortbread achieve its melt in the mouth crispness.
- Orange zest. This adds flavor. Feel free to substitute another citrus zest to shake up the flavor!
- Cranberries. This adds flavor. I used fresh cranberries, but dried are fine too.
- Optional nuts, decorating sugars. These can be used to change the look of the cookie if you’d like. (See Variations below.)
- A microplane is the best tool for getting a very fine zest from citrus.
Step by Step Directions
Cream together butter and sugar. Mix in vanilla and cornstarch, then add flour gradually.
When combined (it probably won’t hold into a ball yet), mix in orange zest and cranberries. Knead a couple times if needed.
Roll dough into a log. To create a smooth log, I used a quick back-and-forth rolling motion like when kids make play dough snakes.
Wrap the log in waxed paper and refrigerate at least an hour.
After the dough is chilled, cut into approximately ¼ inch slices. If you’d like to decorate the cookies with nuts or sugar, do so now.
Set cookies on ungreased cookies sheet allowing for some spread. Bake at 350 F for 12-15 minutes. Cookies are done when they are just starting to brown on the edges.
How to Serve
These would be a delicious snack, especially with coffee or milk. And don’t forget to consider tea, which would align with the cookie’s Scottish heritage!
And of course the combination of cranberry and orange would make this a nice Christmas Shortbread Cookie and lovely on a holiday cookie tray!
Part of the fun of these cookies is that you can take a single log of raw dough and turn it into a few different cookies. I mean, plain is lovely, but I think a more varied platter is even prettier and super easy.
My first variation was to roll some of these in ground pecans. The dark nuts around the outside looked so pretty!
I liked those as is but also topped with a pecan half. Which I also tried on the plain cookies.
Of course you can always top with decorating sugar. I tried this with a coarse white decorating sugar as well as green. So pretty!
Tired of orange? I’m thinking Cranberry Lime Cookies would be great, made with lime zest instead of orange zest.
These cookies will last for about a week in a sealed container. They can also be frozen, either before or after baking, also sealed tightly, for up to a few months!
Tips & FAQs
As mentioned, I think that a microplane is the best tool for producing a nice fine zest with minimal white pith. The colored portion of the peel contains the best flavor and volatile oils, while the white pith tends to be bitter. So a good zesting tool like a microplane is very helpful to get just the very outer layer.
If you decide to “roll” the cookie edge in nuts, I found it more effective to lightly press the cookie edge into the ground nuts instead of rolling. And ground pecans adhered better for me than chopped.
This is a small batch of cookies—the exact number will vary based on the size and thickness of the cookies, but it is likely under 2 dozen. Double the recipe if you need more.
I used fresh cranberries since I knew they’d be easy to chop, but also for the tart freshness and as a gesture to reducing sugar.
And related to reducing sugar, I also tried the recipe with half the sugar (1/4 cup) and felt that the additional sugar made a difference. They actually seemed more flavorful to me, not just sweeter.
Welcome to #ChristmasCookies Week! That time of year when we soften the butter, fire up the oven, and make cookie trays for family, friends, and neighbors. This year more than 20 top-notch bloggers are sharing their very favorite creations for all to make and enjoy. Join us for a week’s worth of Christmas cookie deliciousness.
- Almond Paste Squares by Shockingly Delicious
- Cherry Vanilla Pinwheels by Jolene’s Recipe Journal
- Cherry Wink Cookies by An Affair from the Heart
- Chewy Frosted Christmas Cookie by Red Cottage Chronicles
- Chocolate Blossom Cookies by Palatable Pastime
- Chocolate Mint-Filled Cookies by Karen’s Kitchen Stories
- Cranberry Orange Shortbread Cookies by Art of Natural Living
- Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies by Hostess At Heart
- Eggnog Snickerdoodle Cookies by Best Cookie Recipes
- Elf Style Chocolate Chip Peppermint Cookies by Cheese Curd in Paradise
- Gingerdoodles by Magical Ingredients
- Gingerbread Magic Cookie Bars by Family Around the Table
- Gingerbread Oatmeal Cookies by A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures
- Gluten-Free Chocolate Spritz by Frugal & Fit
- Grinch Cake Mix Cookies by Kathryn’s Kitchen Blog
- Nut-Free Snowball Cookies by Faith, Hope, Love, and Luck Survive Despite a Whiskered Accomplice
- Peanut Butter Snickerdoodles by Christmas Tree Lane
- Raspberry Pistachio Thumbprints by Sweet Beginnings
- Rosewater Pistachio Snowball Cookies by The Spiffy Cookie
- Sourdough Ginger Cookies by That Recipe
- Toffee Bars by A Day in the Life on the Farm
- Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies by Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks
- Whipped Shortbread Cookies by Blogghetti
Cranberry Orange Shortbread Cookies
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- 1 Tablespoon orange zest
- 1/2 cup fresh cranberries chopped
- Chop cranberries.
- Cream together butter and sugar. Mix in vanilla and cornstarch, then add flour gradually. When combined (it probably won’t hold into a ball yet), mix in orange zest and cranberries. Knead a couple times if needed.
- Roll dough into a log. To create a smooth log, I used a rolling motion like when kids make play dough snakes. Wrap the log with waxed paper and refrigerate at least an hour.
- After the dough is chilled, cut into approximately ¼ inch slices. If you’d like to decorate the cookies with nuts or sugar, do so now.
- Set cookies on ungreased cookies sheet allowing for some spread.
- Bake at 350 F for 12-15 minutes. Cookies are done when they are just starting to brown on the edges.
- Shortbread Pecan Bars without Corn Syrup
- Iced Gingerbread Bars