These are delicious cookies! Such a pretty variation on a basic shortbread recipe.. Shortbread flavor with Christmas-y swirls. They looked very pretty on our platters at church. Definitely will be making these again! It all starts with the tried-and-true shortbread formula: sugar, butter and flour. These three basic ingredients—plus a dash of vanilla—are all that’s needed to make a dough that bakes up into almost inexplicably buttery and tender cookies, so they’ve got substance, as well as style. Their swirled look is the result of a little bit of food color and Betty’s clever technique. Dough gets divided into three parts, dyed and recombined. A little bit of gentle kneading is all it takes to add the holly-jolly swirled effect!
Christmas Swirl Shortbread Cookies
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon green gel food color
- 1/2 teaspoon red gel food color
- 2 tablespoons coarse sparkling white sugar
In large bowl, beat softened butter, 1/2 cup granulated sugar and the vanilla with spoon until well mixed. Stir in flour until blended. Knead 5 to 10 times or until dough is smooth.
Divide dough into 3 pieces. Place 2 pieces of dough into 2 small bowls. To one bowl, add green food color; stir or knead to mix color thoroughly into dough. Repeat with red food color and second piece of dough.
Cut each of the 3 doughs in half. Take one half of each of the doughs, and press together into a ball. Gently knead to mix colors (don’t overwork dough or it will lose marbling). Shape into a roll, 6 inches long by 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Spread 1 tablespoon sparkling sugar on plastic wrap; roll log to cover. Wrap dough log tightly with plastic wrap. Repeat forming, shaping and rolling with remaining dough pieces. Refrigerate about 1 hour 30 minutes or until firm.
Heat oven to 350°F. Unwrap 1 of the dough logs; cut into 1/2-inch slices. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet, reshaping if necessary.
Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until edges are set. Cool 2 minutes; remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack. Unwrap remaining dough log, and repeat slicing and baking. Cool completely, about 30 minutes. Store covered in airtight container.
Cookie dough rolls can be refrigerated for up to 48 hours before baking. Be sure to wrap securely in plastic wrap to keep dough from drying out. When you’re ready to bake, let dough stand for 10 to 15 minutes at room temperature before attempting to slice and continuing with the recipe.
Cookie dough rolls can be frozen for up to one month. Wrap rolls in plastic and place in freezer until firm. Once dough is firm, make sure plastic wrap is securely twisted around rolls and transfer to a large resealable freezer bag. To thaw, let dough stand 30 to 45 minutes at room temperature, or until easy to cut into slices. Remove plastic wrap, slice and continue as directed in recipe.
For best results, bake cookies on the middle oven rack. For even baking, it’s best to bake one sheet at a time.
Wearing food-safe plastic gloves makes mixing food color in the cookie dough easier and will prevent staining your hands. Single-use plastic gloves can be found at most large retailers.
After combining the tinted dough balls into one, only work it enough to shape. Overworking can marble the dough too much and will not give you the nice swirl of colors.
Rolling dough logs in coarse sparkling sugar makes cookies extra special. Sparkling sugar can be found in the cake decorating section of most grocery stores.