Almond Shortbread Bars

Almond Shortbread Bars | Once Upon a Recipe

Only four days left until Christmas!

Every year, Christmas seems to sneak up on me. This year has been no different and despite the whirlwind of shopping, baking, and holiday-partying, I can’t believe we are so close to the big day. Nevermind the fact that 2014 is rapidly coming to a close. Seriously, where did the year go?

Almond Shortbread Bars | Once Upon a Recipe

I’m hoping to share a couple more recipes during this final countdown to the big day. If you’re looking for quick and easy sweets to add to your holiday dessert table, look no further. These almond shortbread bars are wonderful. They start with an easy shortbread base and are topped with sliced almonds that have taken a little swim in butter and brown sugar, creating a little caramel-y goodness.

Almond Shortbread Bars | Once Upon a Recipe

Every Christmas needs a little shortbread, in my opinion. Think of these bars as shortbread’s older, wiser, and hotter older brother. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about.

Almond Shortbread Bars | Once Upon a Recipe

Almond Shortbread Bars (adapted from Love Write Now)

Shortbread bars that get a little extra pizazz from a caramel-almond topping. These bars freeze well when stored in an airtight container. 

1 1/2 cups butter, divided

1 cup icing sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

Pinch of salt

1 cup brown sugar

2 tsp. lemon juice

1 TBSP. water

1 1/2 cups sliced almonds

1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cream together 1 cup of butter and the icing sugar. Add the flour and salt and mix together. Press the mixture into an ungreased 9″ x 13″ pan. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned.

In the meantime, melt the remaining 1/2 cup butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the brown sugar, lemon juice, and water. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add the almonds and vanilla. Spread the mixture evenly over the base and bake for another 12-15 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool and then cut into bars.

What are your go-to last-minute holiday treat recipes?

A Festive Treat | Christmas Biscotti

My mom brought these delectable treats to the cookie exchange last weekend. I spent the afternoon in the kitchen with her the day before, and we worked through the recipe together (neither of us had ever made biscotti before). This biscotti is quite delightful, if I do say so myself. The original recipe called for dried raspberries or strawberries, but my mom could not find either, no matter how hard she looked, so we improvised and used cranberries. The biscotti are loaded with pistachios, cranberries, and little bits of white chocolate, making them look rather festive and fitting for the holiday season! Not to mention the fact that they are delicious, especially with a nice cup of coffee or tea.

Never made biscotti before? Have no fear! They are fairly simple to make, just more time-consuming since they are baked twice. Stay inside where it’s warm, take an afternoon to bake these, and fill your home with the delicious scent of biscotti! These would taste great at any time of year I am sure, but the colors and ingredients fit with the holidays perfectly. Happy eating!

Pistachio, Cranberry, and White Chocolate Biscotti (adapted from Bon Appétit magazine, Dec. 2005)

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 TBSP. canola oil

2 tsp. baking powder

2 ½ tsp. almond extract

½ tsp. salt

¾ cup shelled raw unsalted natural pistachios

1 cup sugar

1 cup dried cranberries

3 large eggs

½ cup chopped high-quality white chocolate (such as Lindt or Perugina)

8 ounces high-quality white chocolate (such as Lindt or Perugina) and/or 8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 350oF. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl to blend. Using an electric mixer, beat sugar, eggs, oil, and almond extract in a large bowl until well blended. Add flour mixture and beat until smooth. Stir in pistachios, dried cranberries, and ½ cup white chocolate. Drop dough by heaping tablespoonfuls in two 12-inch long strips on prepared baking sheet, spacing strips 3 inches apart. Using wet fingertips, shape each strip into a 3-inch-wide log, pressing evenly (logs may look slightly lumpy). Bake logs until lightly browned and almost firm to the touch, about 30 minutes. Cool logs for 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325oF.

Carefully transfer the logs to a cutting board. Use the same parchment-lined baking sheet. Cut each log crosswise into generous ½-inch-thick slices. Stand biscotti upright, spacing about ¼ inch apart, in 3 rows on baking sheet. Bake until pale golden (biscotti may be soft but will firm as they cool), about 20 minutes. Cool completely.

Line another large baking sheet with parchment paper. Place 8 ounces chopped white (or bittersweet) chocolate in medium glass bowl. Microwave for 20-second intervals just until chocolate is soft to touch, about 40 seconds total (do not overheat or chocolate will burn or seize). Stir chocolate until smooth. Dip 1 end or 1 side of each biscotti in chocolate; place on baking sheet. Chill until chocolate has set, about 30 minutes. To store, arrange in single layer in airtight container and chill up to 5 days or freeze up to 2 weeks.  Makes about 3 dozen.

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