22 December 2011

Almond & Orange Shortbread Bars

Christmas is here, people.

The stockings are hung, the gifts are wrapped, and everything seems to be enveloped in a soft, warm glow. It's a damn good thing Christmas doesn't last all year or else we'd all get fat and drunk and never accomplish anything. But jeez, what a fab time of year it is.

Giving cookies is a holiday tradition, and I just love sharing my favourite things with my favourite people. I have my standard, go-to treats like buckeyes and these cranberry-studded oatmeal gems. This year, I tried something new, and it's delightful. If you got some of these chocolate-dipped shortbreads, you are not on the naughty list. Just so you know.

Adding a unique flair to this shortbread is an ingredient of my own concoction. Allow me to introduce to you: roasted orange peel.

After making roasted lemon peel for this bread, I was inspired to try other citrus. If using an orange for anything else, simply cut away the very outside layer of peel, leaving all of the white pith behind. Let it sit out for a couple of days to dry out. Then roast it in the oven (I typically do this while preheating the oven for something else). Grind it to a powder -- this takes some muscle if working with a pestle and mortar, but it's worth it. The scent alone is worth the effort, warm and earthy, knee-buckling and exotic. It tastes like what I imagine caramelised oranges taste like.

I had a bunch of this powder sitting around, waiting for the perfect thing to add it to. I'd often open the little container and give it a whiff, savouring that beautiful scent. I'm pretty sure I forced my boyfriend to smell it when we first started dating - he probably thought I was insane.

I wanted a recipe where it could really shine, and not get lost among other prominent flavours. It marries beautifully with the almond and fresh orange in these shortbreads, and I couldn't be happier. Simply replace it with fresh orange zest if you don't want to go to the effort of making roasted peel. 

Almond Shortbread Bars
adapted from The Guardian

170g butter
50g light brown sugar
50g caster (granulated) sugar
100g ground almonds
200g plain flour
1 tsp fresh orange zest
1 tsp roasted orange zest
Melted chocolate -  I use a mixture of milk and dark choc, plus a little vegetable shortening so I don't have to temper it. Plus a pinch of sea salt.
Chopped nuts - I used pistachios and almonds. Do what you want!

Set the oven at 160C/gas mark 3.

Cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Stir the nuts, flour and zest into the mixture. Knead a little with hands to make sure the mixture is uniform. Divide dough in two, flatten into disks, wrap and refrigerate 20 mins.

Roll out on a lightly floured surface to about 1cm thickness, cut into 1"x2.5" bars. Prick with the tines of a fork and bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for about 13 minutes, until the edges turn golden.

Dip in melted chocolate and sprinkle with chopped nuts of your choosing.


  1. These look gorgeous! Thank you for the recipe : ) Happy holidays!

  2. The combination of orange and almond is wonderful, and the pistachios on the dark chocolate look sooooo good. Great photos.

  3. These sound like a fantastic little treat to wrap and give friends. Happy holidays!

  4. wow! looks so beautiful... makes for the perfect holiday gift :)

  5. Hi Kristen,
    I'm form Italy ... so sorry for my bad english ^^.
    I saw your blog and I was very enthusiast for the recipes I found in it... I'll try to take some ideas :)
    I love cook and experiment in the kitchen so, if I'll put some recipes on my blog I will tell you.
    I'm also appassionated in photography and... if possible I will know something about the photo: technique or equipment that you used for your beautiful photos.
    Thank you in advance and best regards ^^ DAVIDE

  6. What a clever idea to roast the orange peel! The shortbread looks incredible, too.