Are you one of those people who enjoys having help in the kitchen or would you rather have a quiet workspace, free of interruptions and distractions?
I can go either way, depending on the situation. If I’m getting ready for overnight guests or perhaps a big dinner party, I really like time to myself to think through all of the details and keep organized.
But I also love cooking with friends, whether it’s in their kitchen or mine. And I’ve got three sisters, a daughter and a daughter-in-law and some of our most fun times are when we’re playing with pots, pans, knives, mixing bowls, fresh produce, herbs, flour, sugar, etc. – talking, laughing and creating wonderful family memories, meals and delicious food to enjoy.
This past weekend I had a wonderful assistant in my kitchen. Scott and I were thrilled to have our 19-month old granddaughter, Emery, for the weekend while mommy and daddy snuck off for a special get-away. She kept us laughing the whole time with her antics, and we had lots of fun taking walks, playing at the park, reading books and doing a little baking together.
I’d been rolling around an idea for a fall-inspired shortbread cookie and decided it would be a good project for little Emmy and I to work on while she was here.
I used my favorite crisp, buttery shortbread recipe and added a generous helping of Pumpkin Pie Spice. The buttercream topping gets it’s bright apple-infused flavor from apple cider that’s reduced to a delicious caramely syrup. The same syrup is drizzled over the finished cookies for one more tasty burst of apple.
I mixed up the dough while Emery was napping and chilled it till we were ready to roll, literally! With my rolling pin and a miniature one for the little Café chef, we set to work!
I’ll let her tell the story of our baking adventure…
Emmy and I used a pastry bag fitted with a 2D Wilton tip, but you could also spread the icing on with a knife. Either way, I think you’ll flip, just like my little friend did, when you take the first amazing bite.
These Pumpkin-Spiced Shortbread with Apple Cider Buttercream are a delicious dessert, on their own or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. They make a wonderful gift in a box with a pretty ribbon and a delightful treat for any special occasion. They’re really the perfect way to celebrate the season!
- For the Pumpkin-Spiced Shortbread:
- 1 cup butter softened
- ¾ cup powdered sugar
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup corn starch
- 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- For the Apple Cider Buttercream:
- 1 ½ cups apple cider
- ½ cup dark brown sugar
- ½ cup butter at room temperature
- 1 pound powdered sugar about 4 1/2 cups
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3-4 tablespoons half and half
- Beat butter until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add sugar and beat for another minute.
- Add flour, corn starch, pumpkin pie spice, salt and vanilla. Beat just until incorporated. Don't over beat, but make sure all dry ingredients are incorporated.
- Scrape contents of bowl out onto a lightly floured work surface and form into 2 approximately equal size balls. Place each ball of dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and flatten into a disk. Wrap dough balls completely and place in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 325˚F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Remove one ball of dough from refrigerator and place on a lightly floured work surface. Roll out to ¼ inch thickness. Cut out dough as desired and place shapes on prepared sheet pans.
- Bake at 325˚F for 14-16 minutes or until pale golden brown. Remove to cooling racks to cool completely before icing. Ice if desired with Apple Cider Buttercream.
- For the Apple Cider Buttercream: while cookies are baking, bring apple cider and brown sugar to a boil in a medium-size pot. Reduce to a steady simmer and cook for 20-25 minutes or until syrupy and reduced to 1/2 cup. Set aside and allow to cool.
- Place softened butter and 1/4 cup of the cooled, reduced apple cider in the bowl of a stand mixture. Using the wire whisk attachment, whip the butter mixture on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, stopping to scrape the bowl once or twice.
- Reduce speed to low and gradually add the powdered sugar. Once all of the powdered sugar is incorporated, add half and half, 1 tablespoon at a time until soft and fluffy, then increase the speed to medium-high, add vanilla and mix until incorporated. Continue to beat for a few minutes until light and fluffy, scraping the bowl as needed.
- Frost cookies as desired. To decorate cookies like in pictures, use a Wilton 2D decorating tip. Holding tip perpendicular to one of the cookies, start in center and swirl icing in a circular pattern working towards the outer edges making a complete circle around the cookie. Sprinkle with jimmies or nonpareils, if desired. Repeat with remaining cookies.
- Place cookies on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Drizzle lightly with apple cider reduction, if desired. Store in an airtight container or freeze and thaw several hours before serving.