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 ½ 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 ½ cup. Set aside and allow to cool.
Place softened butter and ¼ 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.
Yield will depend on size of cookies. I used a 2 ½-inch cutter and got 20 cookies.