Seven Days of Shortbread

My favourite cookie plus my favourite holiday mix-ins!

Written by
Robyn Harrison
Published on
December 23, 2020
Time to read
8
mins

Shortbread is my favourite kind of cookie. That buttery flavour and melt-in-your-mouth texture just can't be beat! For the holidays this year, I wanted to shake things up and make some delicious shortbread variations.

The Holidays course, which launched in early December, features my tried-and-tested gluten-free shortbread recipe. After many delicious trials, I landed on a gluten-free shortbread that is just like a regular shortbread: it holds its shape when baking, has that perfect texture, and features that scrumptious butter flavour. If you are a shortbread lover, you have to try it!

All of these variations are for one batch of shortbread cookies, which uses half a pound of butter (1 cup / 8 oz).

Without further ado...

Seven Days of Shortbread

gluten-free maple pecan shortbread cookies

Day 1 - Maple Pecan Shortbread

How to make this variation:

Mix-ins

  • 1/4 cup dark maple syrup
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped
  • about 24 whole pecans

When to add

  • Beat the maple syrup with the butter and icing sugar.
  • Once the dough is formed, fold in the chopped pecans.
  • After cutting out the cookies, press one pecan into the center of each.

You could also drizzle a maple glaze on top to really bring out the maple flavour. This is the maple glaze I use for my decadent pumpkin scones:

  • 1 tablespoon (1/2 oz) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup (dark, if possible)
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Melt the butter and mix in the maple syrup and a pinch of salt. Whisk in the icing sugar. The consistency should be thick, but still thin enough to drizzle on. If too thick, add more maple syrup; if too thin, add more icing sugar. Drizzle the glaze over the cookies, and enjoy!

One more variation: Skip the pecan in the center of the cookie, dip the top of the cookie in the glaze, then sprinkle with more finely chopped pecans.

gluten-free cranberry-orange-pistachio shortbread cookies

Day 2 - Cranberry-Orange-Pistachio Shortbread

How to make this variation:

Mix-ins

  • 1 large orange
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
  • 1/2 cup pistachios, chopped
  • Optional: 1/4 teaspoon almond extract (it helps to bring out the pistachio flavour)

When to add

  • Zest the orange (it should yield about 1 tablespoon of zest).
  • Beat the zest (and almond extract, if using) with the butter and icing sugar.
  • Once the dough is formed, fold in the cranberries and pistachios.

If you want the dried cranberries less chewy, rehydrate them in a bit of orange juice (use that orange you just zested!). Let them sit in the juice until they have softened, then drain the excess juice.

gluten-free chocolate shortbread with mint ganache and crushed candy cane

Day 3 - Chocolate Shortbread with mint ganache and candy cane

How to make this variation:

Mix-ins

  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup

When to add

  • Add cocoa powder with the dry ingredients, whisk until well combined
  • Beat maple syrup in with the butter

For the mint chocolate ganache

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (or whipping cream, 35% m.f.)
  • 1 cup (175g) dark chocolate
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

Method

Heat heavy cream until steaming (just under a boil — 180°F or 82°C). Pour it over the dark chocolate. Whisk for 1-2 minutes until smooth and glossy. Whisk in peppermint extract.

Pour the ganache into a small bowl so that it's deep enough to dip the cookies. Dip the cookies halfway, then place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Once all the cookies are dipped, sprinkle them with crushed candy cane.

Let the cookies sit in the fridge or freezer until the chocolate is set.

Tips:

  • Don't let your cream come to a boil! If it gets too hot, the chocolate will separate. If you do this by accident, let it cool for a few minutes then heat up another tablespoon or two of cream and whisk it in (or you could also use hot coffee).
  • If you want chocolate on the entire cookie, you can dip the entire top in chocolate.
  • If the ganache seems a bit thick, you can add an extra tablespoon or 2 of warm cream until it is your desired thickness.
  • Make sure you check that your candy canes are gluten-free; most say "may contain wheat". I used the Spangler brand candy canes.

gluten-free Toblerone shortbread cookies

Day 4 - Toblerone Shortbread

How to make this variation:

Mix-ins

  • 2 tablespoons honey (preferably unpasteurized for more flavour)
  • 1/2 cup Toblerone chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds, chopped

When to add

  • Beat honey with the butter and icing sugar.⁠
  • Fold chocolate and almonds into the shortbread dough.⁠
  • Once the cookies are cut out, press a chocolate triangle into the center. (If you can find a mini Toblerone, they are perfect here!)⁠

If you want to keep it simple, you can just use Toblerone! I added honey and almonds to really bring out that honey-almond nougat flavour.

gluten-free butterscotch toffee shortbread cookie

Day 5 - Butterscotch Toffee Shortbread

How to make this variation:

Mix-ins

  • 1/2 cup butterscotch chips
  • 1/2 cup Skor toffee bits

When to add

  • Fold butterscotch chips and toffee bits into the shortbread dough. ⁠

That's it; so simple (and so delicious)!

I used Hershey's Chipits for both of these — this isn't an ad — but I highly recommend because all of the Chipits are gluten-free!

gluten-free salted caramel shortbread cookies with dark chocolate drizzle

Day 6 - Salted Caramel Shortbread with Dark Chocolate Drizzle

How to make this variation:

Mix-ins

  • 1 batch plain shortbread cookies
  • 1 batch salted caramel
  • chocolate ganache
  • fleur-de-sel or coarse sea salt

For the caramel topping

There are two options — you can either use soft caramel candies (about 14oz) and melt them with 2 tablespoons of milk or cream. (If doing this in the microwave, melt in short 15-30 second bursts, whisking in between, to ensure it doesn't burn).

Or you can make some caramel! Here's a basic recipe:

  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons (90g) salted butter, room temperature, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) heavy cream (m.f. 35%), warm
  • 1/2-3/4 teaspoon salt

Just a heads up! There will be lots of hot, splattering liquid when making caramel, so make sure you wear an apron and gloves, and use a splatter shield if you have one. Or if you're like me, don't do any of that and burn yourself every 30 seconds.

In a medium-sized pot, heat the granulated sugar on medium heat, while constantly stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan with a rubber spatula (or wooden spoon). Continue stirring until all of the sugar has melted and no lumps remain. This will take several minutes, and the liquid will be a light brown colour. Be careful not to burn it!

Once the sugar is melted, add the butter, and whisk until completely smooth (it will bubble a lot when added). While you whisk, you can temporarily remove the pot from the heat to prevent burning.

Once smooth, let cook for 1 minute without stirring.

Gradually pour in the cream, continuing to whisk. Once it is combined and smooth, let it sit on the heat another minute without stirring.

Remove from the heat and stir in the salt. Let the caramel cool before using; but you want to use it while it is still warm. It will thicken as it cools, so if it's too cool that it's no longer pourable, heat it up a bit more on the stove.

For the chocolate ganache

Note: this makes a lot of ganache, you can scale it down by half or a quarter if only needed for these cookies!

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (or whipping cream, 35% m.f.)
  • 1 cup (175g) dark chocolate
  • fleur de sel or coarse sea salt

Heat heavy cream until steaming (just under a boil—180°F/82°C). Pour it over the dark chocolate. Whisk for 1-2 minutes until smooth and glossy. Scrape into a piping bag (or a plastic bag with a small hole cut in the corner).

To assemble the cookie

Use a round cookie cutter as a mould and place it over the cookie. Pour in about a 1/2 tablespoon of the caramel and use a spoon to help fill out the circle. Let it sit for about 15 seconds, then remove the cutter. After the caramel is on each cookie, place them on a tray in the fridge or freezer to help the caramel set. (It will harden when cold).

Once the caramel is set, drizzle the chocolate over the cookies. Sprinkle a bit of fleur de sel or coarse sea salt on each cookie. Voila!

Tips:

  • The homemade caramel doesn't completely set at room temperature. It will hold its shape, but it means you can't stack these cookies without smushing them. If you use caramel candies, you will get a caramel that is firmer at room temperature.
  • If you want these flavours but a cookie that travels better, you could make smaller shortbread cookies and make a "sandwich" with the caramel and chocolate.

gluten-free cinnamon swirl shortbread cookies
Before icing.

Day 7 - Cinnamon Roll Shortbread

How to make this variation:

Mix-ins

  • 1 batch shortbread
  • 1 batch cinnamon filling

When to add

  • Make the shortbread dough, as usual, but don't chill yet.
  • Cut the dough in half (it's easier to work with in a smaller amount).
  • Between 2 pieces of wax paper, roll the dough out into a rectangle that is about 1/2" thick.

For the cinnamon filling

  • 2 tablespoons (15g) butter, melted, then slightly cooled
  • 1/4 cup (50g) brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Brush the melted butter on the rolled out dough.

In a separate bowl, mix together the sugar and cinnamon, then sprinkle it on top of the butter.

Roll up the dough from the long edge, making sure to roll it tightly and evenly. If it begins to crack (it probably will) just keep pressing the dough together to fill in the cracks.

Once it is rolled into a log, wrap it in the wax paper and let sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or until very firm.

Cut the log into slices about 1/4" thick (I cut mine into 16 slices) and transfer to your lined baking sheet.

During icing.

Once the cookies are baked and cooled, drizzle them with icing:

  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 3 tablespoons milk or cream
  • pinch of salt

Whisk the ingredients together, gradually adding in the milk/cream. The icing should be thick enough to drizzle on, but thin enough that it runs off of your whisk or fork. Add more icing sugar to make it thicker or more milk/cream to make it thinner.

gluten-free cinnamon swirl shortbread cookies with icing
After icing. Mmm...

Happy baking!

There you have it: seven delicious and festive shortbread mix-ins. If you try any of these mix-ins, please let me know how they turned out! Or, if you have any other favourite variations, feel free to share.

Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and happy baking!

Robyn Harrison

Robyn is a home baker based in Toronto, Canada. She comes from several generations of award-winning bakers. After her celiac diagnosis in 2016, and her doctor's advice to “Say good-bye to bread!”, her gluten-free journey began. She is the founder of Robyn's Gluten-free Baking Courses and Robyn's Gluten-free Living. Her mission is to raise the bar for gluten-free baking; “good enough” is no longer good enough.