Walnut Shortbread Christmas Cookies

When I was growing up, this cookie was a mainstay in my family.  In fact, I thought they invented it. 

Turns out, this is one of the oldest and most popular cookie recipes, turning up in nearly every culture.  Just under a different name.  Russian Tea Cakes.  Mexican Wedding Cakes.  All that varies is the flavorings and the type of nut.  

I do think my family thought to decorate them for Christmas with the red and the green sugar. 

Makes about 2 dozen


2 cups flour
½ tsp salt
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons ice water (depending on the season)
2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup walnuts
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure rum extract (or dark rum)
½ cup confectioners sugar
Red & Green sugar crystals

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Place the nuts in the bowl of your food processor, and chop until you have a very fine crumb, but just short of nut butter.
  • In a stand mixer with the paddle, cream the butter.  Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy
  • Add rum and vanilla and beat. 
  • Add the nuts to the butter and sugar mixture and combine thoroughly.
  • Sift the flour and salt together into a separate bowl.
  • Add the flour to butter mixture, and gently incorporate. 
  • If the dough it very stiff, add ice water, and the paddle another couple of turns.
  • With your hands, or a very small ice-cream scoop, roll into balls about 1 inch in diameter, and place on a cookie sheet, about one inch apart.
  • Bake in 350 oven for 20 minutes.
  • As soon as they come out of the oven, slide them onto a rack and sift confectioner’s sugar over the cookies until you have a fairly heavy coating (yes, it makes a mess, but its faster than rolling each cookie by hand into a bowl of confectioner's suger)
  • Sprinkle with red or green sugar crystals.

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