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?

When Life Gives You Lemons | Lemon Crinkles

I’m having one of those weeks. The kind of week where exhaustion hits you like a train, you don’t get enough sleep, and you literally count the hours until the weekend – those two wonderful days that give you the opportunity to catch up on rest, relax, and do all the things that you wanted to do during the week, if you didn’t have work and other commitments to worry about. Not that I expect to get much sleep this weekend…

See this sweet little face? Those mismatched puppy-dog eyes? That little deformed nose? Do not, I repeat, DO NOT let those impressively cute features fool you. Honey and I adopted our little Bella from the Humane Society at the beginning of January. Don’t get me wrong, we absolutely adore her, we love her to bits. But…she hasn’t let us sleep through the night since. Not since the very first night we brought her home, and she tried to deceive us with her too-good-to-be-true behavior. As a result, we are both completely and utterly exhausted. She wakes up several times each night, and then it takes her nearly an hour to fall back to sleep (if she even does), barking all the while. Standing between me and REM sleep. *sigh* What are we doing wrong?

Perhaps I sound a bit melodramatic here, it must be the sleep deprivation talking. Sorry, I’ll get back on track. I made these cookies during the holiday season, and found them to be quite delightful. They remind me of a light shortbread cookie, but with a hint of lemon flavor (next time I whip these up I think I will double the lemon zest for a stronger lemon taste). These little lemon crinkles go very well with a hot cup of tea or coffee. Remember, when life gives you lemons, make lemon cookies! That’s my current philosophy.

Lemon Crinkles

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cups white sugar

1 egg

1/2 tsp. vanilla

Zest of one lemon

4 TBSP. fresh lemon juice

1/2 cups sugar for rolling cookies

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a larger bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, vanilla, lemon zest and juice.

Add in the dry ingredients, beating until just combined. Roll rounded spoonfuls of dough into balls and then roll in sugar. Place on lined cookie sheets, about 1 or 2 inches apart. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand on cookie sheet for 2 minutes before removing to cool on wire racks. Makes 24 – 36 cookies. Happy eating!

The Baking Begins | Cherry Almond Butter Cookies

There is something about holiday baking that just gets me feelin’ the Christmas spirit. Maybe it’s the warmth that comes from the oven and fills the kitchen in contrast with the cold outside, maybe it’s the sweet scent of baking butter and sugar that teases your tummy, or maybe it’s the thoughts of sharing delicious cookies and treats with friends and family as you get together to celebrate the season. Whatever it is, I adore it and can’t seem to get enough.

Baking is a big Christmas tradition in my family, and there is never a shortage of sweet treats to choose from. In fact, one might be inclined to skimp on turkey and mashed potatoes in an effort to leave extra room for cookies and squares and tarts!

There are a few Christmas cookie recipes that I turn to year after year, but I also try to pick a couple of new recipes to try every holiday season. These cookies, Cherry Almond Butter Cookies, joined my recipe stash a few years ago when I impulsively bought the Company’s Coming Most Loved Cookies cookbook right before Christmas. Their butter content might make you think of shortbread, and they have a similar buttery sweetness, but the addition of tart dried cherries and crunchy toasted almonds give them a delicate uniqueness. They have become one of my favorites, and if you give them a try, they might become one of your favorites too!

Cherry Almond Butter Cookies (from Company’s Coming Most Loved Cookies)

2 cups of butter, softened (room temperature)

1 1/2 cups of sugar

1 egg

2 tsp. vanilla

5 cups of all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/3 cups of dried cherries (roughly chopped)

1 cup of toasted slivered almonds

Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the egg and beat well. Add the vanilla and beat until smooth. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Add to the butter mixture in 3 additions, mixing well after each addition until no dry flour remains.

Add the cherries and mix well. Divide the dough into 3 portions. Shape each portion into an 8-inch (20 cm) long log. Wrap each log with waxed paper. Chill for at least 6 hours or overnight.  (This is an important step as it makes the cookie dough firm and easy to slice before baking). When ready to bake, discard the wax paper from each log. Cut into 1/3-inch (1 cm) slices. (I was able to get about 20 slices out of each log, for a total of 60 cookies). Arrange about 2 inches (5cm) apart on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.

Gently press 2 or 3 almond slivers* in a decorative pattern on top of each slice. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 10 minutes or until just golden. Let stand on cookie sheets for 5 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool.

*To toast the almond slivers, spread them evenly in an ungreased shallow pan. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 5-10 minutes, stirring or shaking often, until lightly golden.

PS. Honey just informed me that when he found these in the freezer this afternoon, he polished off 8 cookies in one sitting. Hide these if you want them to make it until Christmas!

PPS. I apologize for the terrible light in my photos. I have zero natural light in my condo, and since I do much of my cooking/baking in the evening after work, the light is even worse! The odd Saturday or Sunday cooking venture might yield more favorable results, but I’m not going to limit myself to just those two days per week.

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