I very rarely post a recipe that I would classify as “expert,” meaning you would have to be an adept baker to be able to make it properly without pulling all your hair out. I like to keep my recipes simple and easy, I always maintain that there is not real art to baking. It’s just science. Anybody who can read and measure can bake. But every once in a while, I try out a new recipe like this one that teaches me that baking is actually an art.
Do not even attempt this one if you are not a patient, patient person. I would call myself semi-patient in general, but almost always patient when it comes to cooking and baking. This recipe had me growling and so very frustrated with the crumbly dough. I finally finished cutting out all my stars (another challenge to get each point of each star out of the cutters without breaking them- next time I’ll use a different shape) and then came the task of painstakingly painting each star gently and neatly with jam using a teeny tiny paintbrush.
I know a lady who every year at Christmas makes these amazing spritz cookies that she individually decorates- each and every cookie- intricately with tiny sprinkles and balls. They are so gorgeous and I always think- she has so much more patience than I do. But there is definitely something to be said for the feeling of accomplishment you get when you have created something truly beautiful, and these cookies truly are. Not only beautiful, but so festive and Christmasy.
I wasn’t sure that these had been worth my time until they cooled and I bit into one of them. Oh. My. Gosh. These cookies were like taking a bite of Christmas. The delicate flavors of the cinnamon and cloves and orange. The jam. The crunchiness and delicateness of the dough suddenly made every single crumbling cookie that I lost in the process well worth it. The crumbly dough all made sense. Visions of sugar plums were truly dancing in my head.
I’m going to go with that for why these are called “Sugar Plum” cookies. The original recipe for these used a sugar plum jam, which was impossible to find. I used raspberry jam and they were amazing.
If you are patient and wanting to create a truly beautiful cookie for your Christmas tray this year, give these a try. I promise they are worth it.
Recipe adapted from Wicked Good Kitchen
For the Orange-Pecan Spice Shortbread Cookies:
- 2½ cups all purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts
- 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1½ tablespoons freshly grated orange zest
- 1 cup room temperature, salted butter, cut into small pieces
For the Jam & Sparkling Sugar Topping:
- Homemade or prepared Jam, plum, raspberry, or strawberry
- Granulated sugar, for sprinkling
- Sparkling white sugar, such as Wiltons, for sprinkling
On a lightly floured work surface, roll dough until ½-inch thick. Using cookie cutters, cut into desired shapes. Place on prepared baking sheets 2 inches apart.
Use a small paintbrush to spread a light layer of jam over each cookie, leaving some space around the edges. This part is time consuming. Be patient and don’t use too much jam.