Living as I do in an old New England neighborhood that was settled by Irish immigrants, and as I'm of Irish descent, married to an Irish man and was recently given a beautiful old yellowware bowl with shamrocks on it (thank you Clay&La), it seems only fitting to honor Saint Patrick's Day by baking shortbread cookies, the cookies of choice in Ireland. Now, before anyone sends me hate mail, I KNOW shortbread cookies originated in Scotland, but according to sources near and far, the Irish dig shortbread cookies more than any others, and so do I.
While thinking about what to make, I did consider something green. But, honestly, I have trouble with fake-colored food. Don't get me wrong, when my kids were little we made green eggs and ham, colored the milk orange and used copious amounts of multi-colored frosting on cakes. Once, and only once, I let them con me into buying green catsup, which when squirted on a perfectly good Boar's Head hot dog, rendered it completely vile and inedible, even to them - and that's sayin' something.
So these are decidedly grown up cookies. They're my favorite because they have a creamy, crumbly texture and aren't too sweet. Just one of these rich cookies is perfect with a cup of afternoon tea. To spice up the simple shortbread cookie a little, some like to add chocolate chips to their dough, but I find that sweetens them too much. I opted to use cacao nibs, roasted and shelled cocoa beans, which I have just recently discovered. Nibs have a lovely nutty-crunchy texture, and subtle chocolate flavor and scent. The result is a beautifully flecked cookie that satisfies the sweet-tooth without drowning it in sugar. And, as a bonus, there are only 5 ingredients in the entire recipe - how sweet is that?!
Irish Cacao Nib Shortbread Cookies (Adapted from The Fanny Farmer Cookbook)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8-1/4 cup cacoa nibs
Preheat oven to 350F. Cream the butter, then gradually add the sugar, beating well. Mix the flour and salt together and add to the first mixture, then add cacoa nibs combining thoroughly. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin until it is 1/4 inch thick, then cut into rectangles or any other desired shape. Put them on ungreased cookie sheets, prick each cookie with a fork, and bake for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges.