These are, without a doubt, the BEST tasting decorated cut-out cookies I’ve ever eaten. Brown butter citrus shortbread is delicious all on it’s own – buttery, not overly sweet, and laced with the subtle flavors of orange, lemon, and lime. Dark and white chocolate fondants are easy to work with, gorgeously glossy, and a delicious compliment to the brown butter citrus flavor of the cookies.
For the Shortbread Cookies:
- 30 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar
- 2 – 3 tbsp (total) citrus zest from 1 orange, 1 large lemon, and 2 limes
- 3 large egg yolks
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 3 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp table salt (1 1/4 tsp kosher salt)
- Holiday cookie cutters – or any shape of cookie cutters
For the Chocolate and Vanilla Fondants:
- 2 oz good quality unsweetened chocolate, chopped into very small pieces
- 2 oz good quality white chocolate, chopped into very small pieces
- ¼ cup + 2 tbsp light corn syrup
- ¾ cup water
- 7½ cups powdered sugar
- 1½ tsp pure vanilla extract
- Gel Food Coloring (optional, for decorating)
To Make the Shortbread Cookies:
- Put 16 tablespoons of the butter in a saucepan and set it over medium-low heat. Cook until the milk solids have fallen to the bottom of the pan and turned a rich golden brown, 7-10 minutes. As the milk solids begin to brown, watch carefully so that it doesn’t burn. Pour the butter into a bowl and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to let solidify.
- Add the browned butter, the remaining 14 tablespoons of butter, powdered sugar, and zest to the bowl of a standing mixer. Beat on low just to combine, then beat on medium-high until fluffy and the consistency of frosting. Add the egg yolks and vanilla and beat on medium-high for 1 minute more.
- Stir the flour and salt together and add it to the bowl of the mixer. Beat on low just until the dough comes together.
- Stretch a piece of plastic wrap out on the counter. Place half the dough in the center, shape it into a disk that’s approximately 8-inches in diameter, and wrap tightly. Repeat with the second half of dough. Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, and preferably overnight.
- Set the dough out on the counter and let stand until soft enough to roll out, but still cold to the touch.
- Lay a sheet of parchment paper that’s approximately 13×18 inches (the size of a half-sheet pan) out on the counter top and lightly dust it with flour. Set the dough in the center of the paper and dust the surface with flour. Roll the dough into a rectangle that’s approximately 1/4-inch thick. To keep the dough from sticking, periodically dust the surface with flour, lay another sheet of parchment paper over the top, and flip the whole thing over. Peel off the top sheet of paper, dust with more flour and continue rolling. Alternatively, run a large flat metal spatula under the dough every once in a while to keep the bottom from sticking.
- Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes, laying the cookies on a parchment covered baking sheet, re-rolling the dough as necessary. Cover the cookies with plastic wrap and put the sheet in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake the cookies for 12-14 minutes, rotating the cookie sheet from front to back half way through cooking to ensure even baking. The cookies are done when they are just beginning to brown around the edges.
- Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for at least 4 minutes, then use a spatula to remove to a wire rack and let cool completely before decorating.
To Make the Fondants and Decorate the Cookies:
- Put the chopped dark chocolate in one medium size bowl and the chopped white chocolate in another.
- Add the corn syrup and water to a medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat just until the mixture boils. Remove from the heat and add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, beating with a wire whisk to combine after each cup is added. Add the vanilla and whisk until completely smooth.
- Pour half the syrup over the dark chocolate and the other half over the white chocolate. Let sit for about 5 minutes and then stir the chocolate fondant until smooth. If the chocolate won’t completely melt, put the bowl in the microwave at half power for 15-20 seconds. *This is a good consistency for outlining designs and adding piped decoration.
- Thin the fondants by adding hot water, one teaspoon at a time to the fondants until they reach the desired consistency. To color the white chocolate fondant, use Gel Food Coloring.
- After decorating the cookies, let them sit until the fondants have hardened. Then store the cookies in an airtight container, layers separated with parchment paper, for up to 10 days.
Keywords: Christmas cookies, holiday cookies, shortbread cookies, decorated cookies, cut-out cookies, sugar cookies, chocolate frosted cookies