These are the cookies I grew up with. It’s a family recipe, no one else makes them quite this way. It’s not complicated, not at all. It’s basically a shortbread recipe. Except that — well, being a family recipe, there is a secret ingredient.
My mom taught me the recipe; she suspects my grandma (the one I never met) is responsible for twisting it.
Coming from a family of farmers and winemakers, my grandma just added—wine.
So do not expect typical shortbread cookies; these are less buttery and crumbly than the Scottish ones. But they are delightful in their straightforward simplicity, and they are subtly aromatic in a very Italian way.
And they are my secret weapon for a lazy rainy Sunday afternoon with the kids: my kids love getting messy with flour, playing with cookie cutters and figuring out creative way to decorate the cookies. The last batch we made, around Halloween, had some badly injured human- and animal-shaped cookies: missing limbs, red sugary blood… My littlest one could create freely for the first time without being criticized by my oldest, since “missing something” was actually considered a plus this time!
I know what you think: Is she really feeding her kids cookies made with wine? Yes I am.
Not a big deal, friends: the alcohol dissolves while cooking and you will just have the taste, nothing else.
And here they are: wonderful, fragrant, and deliciously unique.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 1 hour using shortcuts
Yields: 25-30 cookies
|Heat the oven to 350°F.If your butter is coming straight from the fridge, microwave in a small bowl for a few seconds (amount of time largely depends on your microwave, so do it in 10 seconds segments), to soften but not liquefy. (Skip this step if you have had time to leave the butter on the counter for a couple of hours to soften.)In a large bowl, mix the flour and sugar and optional salt. Add the softened butter and the wine. Quickly mix the ingredients using your hands. Form a ball as quickly as possible – the dough will make the best cookies if kept cool all the time.|
|It will be pretty much the same consistency as play-dough, malleable and not too sticky since it contains so much butter.|
|If you have time, wrap the ball in plastic and store it in the refrigerator for an hour (but anywhere from half an hour to a full day will improve the texture of the cookies). You can also use the freezer in case you are in a hurry (and I am always in a hurry), and 20 minutes of freezer time can do the trick.|
|You can now choose between two different approaches:
|Sprinkle the top of each cookie with a pinch of sugar before baking at 350°F.|
|I like these cookies to be a deep golden color (sometimes even slightly brown), not pale as are most shortbreads. For a half-inch cookie, I suggest about 30 minutes baking time. If your kids are helping, the cookies will likely be of variable thickness, making the baking time a little unpredictable. Just bake for 20 minutes and then check the color, adding time in 5 minutes increments.|
Let them cool before eating. If you can wait that long…