It only happens once a year – this weekend was my birthday! 🙂
I’m actually used to having a pretty low key birthday because during college the day always fell right before or during finals. While celebrations each year were necessarily stunted, I was (and am) also blessed with wonderful friends who would think of me even in the midst of their hard core studying. One year, I got surprised with three cakes (all of them cookies&cream, because they knew me so well) on three separate occasions throughout the day! Needless to say, my late night studying that year was well fueled by sugar.
This year, I could actually relax and enjoy authentic paella and sangria with some of my closest friends… while still getting completely spoiled and surprised by everyone. I’m feeling extremely loved and incredibly grateful right now for all the support and kindness in my life!
The first of many shout-outs this month: one of my best friends (in fact I stayed with her family for Thanksgiving this year too) is not only sweet and kind but also amazingly talented. Observe, if you will, these absolutely gorgeous plates:
Want one for your own? Well TOO BAD, because they are one of a kind – custom designed and painted completely by hand! If you’re reading this, Gena, know that I will cherish these plates forever. They will be passed down from generation to generation as a family heirloom – 2015 Gena originals!
It’s during this time of year that I yearn to find ways to give back to the people who have given me so much in my life. Have you ever heard of “Melting Moments” cookies? I’m not sure where I first learned the recipe, but they’re one of my favorite classic holiday cookies to make as small little gifts to friends. The name, Melting Moments, just reminds me what the holidays is all about – cherishing those fleeting, beautiful moments in time with your friends and family 🙂
Melting Moments are basically a variant of traditional shortbread cookies that uses cornstarch in the dough to create that oh-so-delectable texture for which these cookies are named. You can make them plain, or dust them with powdered sugar before serving, or (like I did here) dip in dark chocolate and garnish with crushed hazelnuts. Mmm, dark chocolate…
As with all shortbread, since butter is such a primary ingredient in such a short ingredient list, I highly recommend using a decent to high quality butter. There’s no skimping on that glorious amount of butter for that characteristic shortbread texture and taste, but have no (or less) fear – these cookies are meant to be dainty and on the smaller side, so portion sizes are your friend. Fully enjoy each bite-sized cookie as a delicious moment.
Can these cookies be made dairy-free/vegan? Sure, but fair disclaimer – vegan shortbread just won’t be as good as full-butter shortbread. It’s still pretty melt-in-your-mouth delicious though, especially if you add some butter extract or emulsion to offset that margarine-y taste. Just be even more careful to keep the dough chilled up to right before popping them in the oven, as vegan butter/margarine does have a lower melting point than good butter.
Normally, these cookies are shaped as simple circles or crescents. You could also use cookie cutters as long as there aren’t any long thin bits sticking out, as these cookies are fairly fragile. The baked dough keeps its shape fairly faithfully, so shape your cookies with the assumption that they won’t spread. (If your cookies do spread too much, likely your dough wasn’t chilled enough before going in the oven – next time, try popping them in the fridge or freezer right before baking). For an extra special touch, I decided to shape these cookies using my Chinese mooncake molds, which I bought off Amazon this year for the Lunar Festival. Cookie stamps would be super cute with this recipe too!
One batch makes about 3 dozen cookies, though it can easily be scaled down. You might actually want to scale up though, because these cuties disappear quickly! Why don’t you show some appreciation for the loved ones in your life and whip up a batch today? 🙂
adapted from…somewhere, everywhere!
makes about 3 dozen cookies
egg free, low sugar
dairy free/vegan options available
- 1 cup (16 tablespoons/2 sticks) unsalted butter or vegan butter, room temperature
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar (also known as confectionery sugar)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- if using vegan butter, also add 1 teaspoon butter extract/emulsion
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon salt (omit if using vegan butter, which already has salt)
optional dipping chocolate and crushed hazelnut garnish:
- 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons crushed/finely chopped hazelnuts
- Cream together the butter, sugar, and vanilla using a mixer or by hand. All sugar should be well incorporated and the butter should look soft and creamy.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch and salt. Add these dry ingredients gradually to the butter mixture, stirring until all ingredients are incorporated.
- Chill by putting in the fridge for 2 hours up to overnight, or putting in the freezer for about 10 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare a baking sheet either greased or lined with parchment paper or silicone baking liner.
- Shape your cookies as desired on the baking sheet, using about a ball of dough 1 inch in diameter per cookie (around 13-15g, if you use a kitchen scale). If using a mooncake mold, stamp, or cookie cutter, be sure to flour your tools well before every use as this dough is very sticky.
- If the dough seems too warm, chill one more time before baking; otherwise, it is fine to bake immediately. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Cookies are done when the edges are just turning golden brown.
- if making dipping chocolate: while baking, combine chocolate chips and oil in a heat-safe bowl. Microwave at 30 second blasts, stirring in between each half minute, until chocolate is fully melted and oil is fully incorporated.
- Once cookies are done, cool on baking sheet until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes.
- if using dipping chocolate: set on a shelf/rack in the freezer a sheet of parchment paper. Gently (these cookies are fragile especially when warm) dip each cookie in the melted chocolate, sprinkle some hazelnuts on top, then place the cookie on the parchment paper in the freezer. If the chocolate starts to congeal at any point, just microwave for another 30 minutes and stir. Repeat for all cookies. Freeze cookies dipped in chocolate for at least 10 minutes, until chocolate coating is completely dry.
- These cookies store extremely well in an airtight container at room temperature for a week or more. They also freeze very well, especially the chocolate-dipped variation!
Nutritional description: Mmm, buttery goodness. Well there certainly aren’t any superfoods being packed into this recipe, but they’re actually quite low in sugar and calorically fairly light. Enjoy!
Nutritional information (calculated without vegan substitutions or optional garnishes): Calories 71, Total Fat 4.9g, Saturated Fat 3.1g, Cholesterol 13.3mg, Carbs 6.7g, Fiber 0.2g, Sugars 0.8g, Protein 0.5g, Sodium 16.4mg
Nutritional information (calculated without vegan substitutions, with optional garnishes): Calories 84, Total Fat 5.9g, Saturated Fat 3.5g, Cholesterol 13.3mg, Carbs 7.1g, Fiber 0.3g, Sugars 1.7g, Protein 0.6g, Sodium 16.9mg