This Cranberry Shortbread is dipped in chocolate and finely chopped pistachios for a simple but sophisticated twist on a classic holiday favorite. These shortbread cookies will steal the spotlight on any Christmas cookie platter!
Cranberry Pistachio Shortbread
Shortbread really has no business being as good as it is. There’s just no reason four basic ingredients should make something so divine.
It’s got to be the butter, right? Anything that is comprised primarily of butter has to be good.
But I have an especially soft, squishy place in my heart for Chocolate Dipped Cranberry Pistachio Shortbread.
This recipe takes something great (plain butter shortbread), adds more great things (cranberries and pistachios), and then dips it all in the best thing (chocolate).
Here’s why these are the ideal holiday cookie:
- They taste and look so fancy! Tangy cranberries are a Christmas classic, but adding a hint of orange zest really puts them over the top. The chocolate and pistachio coating is lovely and elegant, without the stress of fussy piping or decorations.
- They’re easy to make and can be made ahead of time. Shortbread is one of the easiest cookies to make, and they also keep well for several days.
- They travel well. Pop these beauties in a tin to take to Christmas parties, and they’ll come out looking good as new. Disclaimer: Unless you live somewhere were Christmas is above 70. Then we might have a little smooshy chocolate situation. Otherwise, these are rock star travelers.
- They’re perfect for dunking in holiday drinks, like Homemade Tea Lattes, Chai Tea, and Hot Chocolate.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure this combination of flavors would work, but it really, really does. It’s an incredibly balanced cookie, with a bit of tang from the cranberries, a hint of citrus, and the creamy richness of chocolate and pistachios. You’ve got to try it to see for yourself!
Ingredients for Chocolate Dipped Shortbread
Start off with the holy quaternity (yes, it’s really a word!) of shortbread:
- Butter– I normally don’t buy expensive butter for baking, but it’s worth it for shortbread. Butter is the prominent flavor, so I like to spend a few extra dollars on something with a higher percent of butter fat, like Plugra or Kerrygold.
- Salt– I often bake with Kosher salt, but prefer table (or iodized) salt for this recipe.
- Sugar– We’re using good old granulated sugar in this recipe.
- Flour– I forgot to include flour in the ingredient shot, so you’ll have to just imagine a little bowl of fluffy all purpose flour with me. I prefer King Arthur Flour’s all purpose flour for baking.
To the base, we add:
- Dried cranberries– If your cranberries are a little dry and wrinkly, rehydrate them by placing them in a cup of warm water or orange juice for 10 minutes. Drain them well before adding them to the recipe.
- Orange juice and zest– While cranberry and orange is a classic combination, orange and chocolate is a little less common. However, the burst of citrus is a really nice compliment to the bitterness of the chocolate. You can also try it in this Flourless Chocolate Orange Cake.
- Semi-sweet chocolate and coconut oil– I melt chocolate with a bit of coconut oil to give it a glossy sheen.
- Pistachios– I’m pretty sure science has proven pistachios are fancy AF. Nothing matches their rich, buttery taste or pretty color. I use a food processor to get them to a find grind for sprinkling.
How to Make Cranberry Shortbread
- Beat the butter, sugar, and salt together on medium high speed for 3-4 minutes until creamy and light in color.
- Add the flour and blend until a soft, crumbly dough forms.
- Beat in the cranberries, orange zest, and orange juice.
- Shape the dough into 1 1/2 inch balls and place two inches apart on parchment lined baking sheets. They’ll look pretty small, but they’ll spread out into nice size cookies, so resist the temptation to make them huge (Believe me, I felt it too).
- Use a juice glass dipped in flour to press it into 1/4 inch thick rounds.
- Place pans in the freezer for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Remove pans from freezer, place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the center is just set. The cookies will still be pretty pale, with the slightest browning on the edges.
- Allow the cookies to cool on the pans.
- Melt chocolate and coconut oil in a microwave safe bowl (stirring every 45 seconds) or double boiler.
- Create a dipping station with a bowl of melted chocolate, a bowl of chopped pistachios, and wax or parchment paper.
- Dip one half of the cookies in the chocolate, using a spoon to scrape off any extra. Sprinkle the chocolate end with pistachios then lay on the wax paper to dry.
Tips and FAQs
Do you have to chill shortbread?
YES. Unfortunately, this is one step we can’t get around. The chilling time firms up the cookies, so they don’t spread into one giant shortbread sheet. ASK ME HOW I KNOW.
How do you know when shortbread is done?
This is tricky because shortbread doesn’t behave quite like traditional drop cookies. They should be taken out of the oven when they’re still quite pale, but the edges are just turning golden. If you gently press a finger into the center, it can have a tiny bit of give, but should be mostly firm. Shortbread can go from baked to burnt quite quickly, so keep a close eye on them during the last few minutes.
Can you freeze cranberry shortbread?
Yes! Shortbread can be frozen before or after baking. To freeze unbaked shortbread, press the dough rounds into discs on a baking sheet, then flash freeze for 30 minutes. Place in a ziplock freezer bag and store for up to 3 months. Bake as usual, adding an extra minute or two to the baking time.
To freeze baked shortbread, leave the chocolate off, then stack the cookies in an airtight container with parchment paper between the layers. Thaw at room temperature, then dip as usual. Learn more about Freezing Cookies and Bars here.
What’s the best chocolate for dipping?
You can buy official dipping chocolate (look for melting wafers) that’s designed to melt smoothly and have a glossy finish. However, I find any kind of chocolate (including chocolate chips) plus a bit of coconut oil makes a nice base for dipping AND I always have it on hand. I do not recommend using “candy coating” as it doesn’t have the same rich flavor as chocolate.
Options: You’ve got ‘em
- Leave a few of the cranberry shortbread cookies undipped for those among us who are shortbread purists or who have a nut allergy.
- Feel free to use white chocolate instead of dark if you prefer it.
- The pistachios can be substitute for finely chopped pecans or almonds if you prefer.
- If you’re omitting the nuts, you can drizzle the chocolate over the shortbreads for a lovely finish.
- Use any leftover melted chocolate for Chocolate Covered Pretzels or Chocolate Dipped Fluffernutter Ritz Cookies.
More Cranberry Recipes to Celebrate the Season
Snag more of the cranberry and pistachio combo in this Cranberry Chicken Salad with Pistachios.
And of course, don’t forget to kick off the festivities with a bubbly Cranberry Mimosa.
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 3/4 cup dried cranberries, chopped
- Zest of one orange
- 2 teaspoons orange juice
- 8 oz semi sweet chocolate
- 1/2 cup pistachios, finely chopped
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar, and salt together on medium high speed for 3-4 minutes, scraping down the bowl every minute or so. The mixture should be creamy and light in color.
- Add the flour and blend until a soft dough forms. With the mixer on low speed, beat in the cranberries, orange zest, and orange juice.
- Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Shape the dough into 1 1/2 inch balls and place two inches apart on the baking sheet. Use the bottom of a small juice glass dipped in flour to press each ball into 1/4 inch thick rounds.
- Place pans in the freezer for 30 minutes. Do not skip this step, or you'll end up with one giant sheet of shortbreads.
- Meanwhile, preheat oven to 300 degrees. After 30 minutes, remove pans from freezer, place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until edges are very light brown and centers are barely set. They can go from done to burnt quickly so keep an eye on them. Allow the cookies to cool on the pan before transferring.
- While the cookies are cooling, melt chocolate in a microwave safe bowl (stirring every 30 seconds) or in a double boiler. Set up a dipping station with the melted chocolate, a bowl of pistachios, and some wax paper or parchment paper
- Once cookies are cooled, dip them in the chocolate (just halfway), using a spoon to scrape off any extra. Sprinkle the chocolate end with pistachios then lay on the wax paper to dry. Once dry, store in an airtight container. Separate layer with wax paper. The cookies will keep for 5-7 days.
For full instructions on freezing the cookies, see the post above.
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