Scrumptious old-fashioned buttery shortbread kissed with sunny orange zest, chopped pecans and a whisper of spices, topped with Sugar Plum Jam. These magical cookies are like a jam-topped English scone turned into a shortbread cookie!
For the Orange-Pecan Spice Shortbread Cookies
- 2½ cups (310 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon (1.25 g) fine-quality ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon (.65 g) freshly ground whole nutmeg
- ¼ cup (27 g) finely chopped toasted pecans, see Recipe Notes
- 6 tablespoons (75 g) granulated cane sugar or vanilla sugar, see Recipe Notes
- 1½ tablespoons (9 g) freshly grated orange zest
- 1 cup (2 sticks or 226 g) salted butter, cut into small bits
For the Sugar Plum Jam & Sparkling Sugar Topping
- Homemade or prepared Sugar Plum Jam, or favorite red jam, strained
- Granulated sugar, for sprinkling
- Sparkling white sugar, for sprinkling
Arrange oven rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 325ºF (165ºC). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Alternatively, lightly grease two baking sheets before using.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, spices, nuts, sugar and orange zest. Using a pastry blender, or heavy-duty stand mixer with paddle attached on low speed, cut in butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs and starts to cling together. Dough will still be very crumbly. Knead the dough until smooth. Form into a ball and then flatten slightly into a compact disk.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll dough until ½-inch (1.25 cm) thick. Using 1½ to 3-inch (3.8 to 7.6 cm) size cookie cutters, cut into desired shapes. Place on prepared baking sheets 2 inches (5 cm) apart.
Bake for 18 to 22 minutes (18 to 20 minutes for small cookies or 20 to 22 minutes for large cookies) or until bottoms start to brown and centers are set.
Allow cookies to cool slightly on baking sheets for 2 minutes. Using a metal cookie spatula, transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely before icing with jam and sprinkling with sugars.
Yield: Makes 16 to 18 medium to large star-shaped shortbread cookies.
Cool shortbread cookies completely before icing with jam and sprinkling with sugar.
To store shortbread cookies either before or after icing with jam, layer between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days. Alternatively, freeze cookies, before icing with jam, for up to 3 months.
How to Measure All-Purpose Flour for this Recipe: This tip is provided for bakers who do not own a kitchen scale and will be measuring flour by volume rather than by weight. First, aerate your flour very well by stirring it in the container. Then, simply use the dip and sweep method by gently dipping your dry measuring cup into the flour (without packing it) and level off the top with a straight edge of a metal icing spatula. (The straight edge of a knife from a flatware set can be used as well.) This should yield about 125 grams per 1 cup of flour. Use a sheet of wax paper as a liner on your work surface to measure flour so that the excess can easily be funneled back into flour bag or container.
How to Toast Nuts: Toasting nuts brings out their flavor and makes them crisp. It is easy to do. Although toasting nuts is optional for this recipe, it is highly recommended. See directions below.
Preheat oven to 350ºF (177º C). Place nuts, in a single layer, on an ungreased baking sheet. (I like to use my round pizza pan because it has a lip on it which prevents the nuts from rolling off.) Bake for 7 to 8 minutes, stirring halfway through baking time, or until nuts become fragrant and are lightly browned. Watch the nuts closely to prevent burning. Cool nuts completely before chopping and adding to recipes.
To speed up the cooling process after toasting nuts, immediately place hot toasted nuts onto a plate and place in the freezer for 5 to 8 minutes. Halfway through chilling time, stir the nuts to aid the cooling process.
How to Make Vanilla Sugar: Making your own vanilla sugar is quick and easy. Simply plan ahead 1 to 2 weeks before using.
You will need:
1 fine-quality (plump and moist) whole vanilla bean
2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
1 pint-size (16-ounce or 480 ml) wide-mouth mason jar with lid and ring
Place sugar into a medium bowl. With a sharp paring knife, on a small cutting board, carefully slice down the center of vanilla bean, almost to the end but leaving the end intact, to split open. With the back of the paring knife, scrape seeds into bowl with sugar. Using fingertips, work the vanilla seeds into the sugar until well incorporated.
Pour vanilla sugar into mason jar halfway, then place scraped vanilla bean into the jar until near the bottom. Fill jar with remaining sugar and close jar tightly with lid and ring for an airtight seal.
Store vanilla sugar for 1 to 2 weeks. To use in recipes, substitute equally for granulated sugar. Makes 2 cups (about 400 g).
Cookie Shape Variation for Spheres: This cookie dough, for Orange-Pecan Spice Shortbread Cookies, can be rolled into 1-inch (2.5 cm) balls before baking to create simple round shortbread cookies. Lightly grease or parchment line two (2) cookie sheets. Simply shape dough into 1-inch (2.5 cm) balls. Place cookies 2 inches (5 cm) apart on prepared baking sheets. If desired, sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until bottoms start to brown and centers are set. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Makes about 20 cookies.
Cookie Shape Variation for Stamped Cookies: This cookie dough, for Orange-Pecan Spice Shortbread Cookies, can be rolled and stamped with a cookie stamp before baking to create imprint-designed shortbread cookies. Lightly grease or parchment line two (2) cookie sheets. Simply shape dough into 1-inch (2.5 cm) balls and stamp with cookie stamps. Place cookies 2 inches (5 cm) apart on prepared baking sheets. If desired, sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until bottoms start to brown and centers are set. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Makes about 20 cookies.
For Gluten-Free Option: Substitute 2½ cups (320 g) of Cup4Cup Gluten Free Flour, available at Williams-Sonoma stores, for the 2½ cups (310 g) of all-purpose wheat flour called for in the recipe.
Wicked Good Kitchen highly recommends selecting organic ingredients whenever possible.
For this recipe, and all our baking recipes calling for unbleached all-purpose flour, we highly recommend the pure and Organic Unbleached All-Purpose Flour by Hodgson Mill® because it is naturally white and contains no additives. We also highly recommend organic grass-fed butter, eggs, granulated cane sugar and jams or preserves. For this recipe, we highly recommend the Sugar Plum Jam by Stonewall Kitchen® and Sparkling White Sugar by King Arthur Flour® as well as regular white granulated sugar for sprinkling.
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