12 December

Hogmanay Shortbread Cookies

December 31: Hogmanay/New Year’s Eve

Whenever we are too lazy bake a black bun out celebrating with family and friends on New Year’s Eve, we still like to add something Scottish to the festivities. A simple shortbread seems to satisfy, after indulging in all the heavier appetizers, main dishes and drinks.

We used a rustic recipe—only three ingredients: flour, powdered sugar and butter—just like the old Scots did when harsh winters limited their resources and ingredients. Traditionally baked in round tins, our shortbread was shaped into mini circles to resemble lucky coins to wish everyone good fortune in the new year. We also decorated a few of the cookies with chocolate fondant cutout alphabets. They make for a good conversation (and an edible education) about Hogmanay, the last day of the Scottish old year, which does not just include the singing of Auld Lang Syne. Learn more about the rich traditions from Scotland.org.

We are happy to share a little bit of Highlander’s food and culture with everyone. Happy Hogmanay!


(Adapted from Almanac.com)


  • 1 ½ cups pastry flour (see Notes)
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
  • ½ cup butter, chilled
  • Chocolate fondant (optional)


Sift the pastry flour with the powdered sugar in a large mixing bowl. Grate the chilled butter into the flour-sugar mixture. 

Knead for several minutes until the dough comes together. Roll into a ball. Flatten the ball of dough into a disc between two sheets of wax paper. Roll into ¼-inch thick. 

Cut into round shapes. Re-roll dough and continue cutting out shapes. Place onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake in a preheated oven at 300 degrees F for 30 minutes, being careful not to overbake or burn the bottoms. Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Optional: Dust a clean surface with powdered sugar. Roll out a small piece of chocolate fondant to 1/16-inch thickness. Cut out letters to spell Hogmanay. Brush the top of the shortbread with water. Position a letter on the cookie. Arrange on a serving platter.


  • We purchased pastry flour from our local grocery store. But a good alternative is to mix half all-purpose with cake flour.
  • We were at Islander’s parents’ house in Hawaii when we baked these Hogmanay shortbread and forgot to bring round cookie cutters. So we improvised and used the lid of a spice jar to cut shapes. They were the perfect size for this festive food.

3D Christmas Tree Cookies

 December 25: Christmas

Islander had been naughty NICE all year long that Santa stuffed a 3D Christmas tree cookie cutter in her stocking one year! The specialty cutter from Sweet Creations brand may be found on eBay and Amazon.

Without any expectations in return, she made these 3D Christmas tree cookies just to share her joy of baking and we delivered the sweet treats to her brother’s communities of priests and religious for their happy holy-days dessert. In exchange, they prayed for us and gave their blessings—a wonderful gift in itself!

“For it is in giving that we receive….”

St. Francis of Assisi

Highlander and Islander wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!



  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla or almond extract
  • 3 cups flour (all purpose white)
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Green food coloring
  • fondant (white and red—or other colors)
  • edible gold dust


In a bowl, mix the butter with sugar until creamy. Beat in the egg and milk. Add the vanilla or almond extract.

In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture into the other ingredients and blend well to form a dough. Tint with green food coloring and mix well.

Divide dough in thirds and roll into a ball. Then flatten each ball into a disc and place between sheets of waxed or parchment paper. Roll out to about ¼-inch thick (we used ¼-inch thick acrylic sticks as guides). Stack them on a baking sheet and refrigerate until firm (about 30-45 minutes). They may also be frozen for 15-20 minutes. Take one stack of flattened dough out of the refrigerator or freezer. Peel away both front and back to loosen, leaving the dough on one sheet of the waxed or parchment paper. Cut out the Christmas tree shapes.

Place on foil-lined greased cookie pan about 1 ½ – 2 inches apart. Refrigerate the cookie pan. Re-roll scraps of dough and cut more shapes, refrigerating if the dough gets too soft. The dough needs to be cold and firm in order to retain its Christmas tree shape. Bake the cookies in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 10-15 minutes or until the sides are very lightly browned. Remove from the oven when done and let sit on the pan for about five minutes. Transfer each cookie on a wire rack to cool completely.

Separate the top and bottom cookies. Then pair them up to see if the “notches” fit together. If the cookies spread and the “notches” are too wide for the pair of cookies to fit together when assembled, use a dull knife blade to carefully “shave” off the cookie “notches” until they are wide enough for the cookies to fit.

Disassemble the cookies. Roll out white fondant thinly (approximately 1/16 inch) and cut out ½ inch stars using a plunger cutter. Use a water brush to attach the fondant star to the cookie. Brush some gold dust on the star. Set aside.

Roll out red fondant thinly (approximately 1/16 inch). Cut out ¼ inch circles with a round piping tip. Use a water brush to attach the fondant circles to the cookie marks.

Transport the cookies separately/individually. When ready to serve, re-assemble the pairs of cookies on site. Arrange on a flat, festive platter.

Algerian Sablés

December 4: National Cookie Day

We reunited with our friend Sido B. from university when we spent Highlander’s birthday in Paris, France, many years ago. Sido had just married Raida and they invited us to their little apartment for a simple dinner. They served coffee, tea, water and wine along with salad and a tray of Parisian pastries and Algerian appetizers (very fitting as they are French-Algerians). Seventeen years later, we reunited again when we visited them in Dubai, UAE. This time, they had twin teen girls and a bigger house…but still the same generous hospitality of feeding us!

The fancy jam sandwich cookies that they served were sablés, meaning “sand”, which we saw everywhere in Dubai and they said reminded them of the Sahara Desert (لصحراء الجزائرية‎) that dominates the landscape of the country of their birth (they both grew up in Paris and Nice).

These pretty cookies do have a sandy dough but come together and bake into a beautiful butter biscuit. The jam not only holds the pair of cookies together but complements the taste. A sprinkling of powdered sugar looks like snow and makes them festive for the holidays.

Make an impression on National Cookie Day and bake/serve/exchange Algerian sablés!


(Adapted from Food.com)


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • ½ cup sugar, granulated white
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 2 ½ cups flour, all purpose
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Apricot or strawberry jam (or other favorite preserve), warmed and stirred until smooth
  • Powdered sugar for dusting


In a large bowl, cream together the butter with sugar. Add the vanilla. Beat in the egg. In another bowl, combine the flour with baking powder.

Gradually add the dry mixture into the wet mixture. Mix well until a sandy dough comes together. Form a ball and divide in half. Flatten the ball slightly and place between two sheets of wax paper.

Roll out dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Repeat for the other ball. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to firm up the dough. Use a cookie cutter to cut out an even number of tops and bottoms.

For the tops, use a round cookie cutter to cut out the middles. Re-roll the middles and scraps and continue cutting out shapes. Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 8-10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let rest on the cookie sheet for about a minute before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Use a mesh sieve to sprinkle powdered sugar all over the tops of the cookies. Set aside.

Assemble the cookies by spreading jam on the bottom of a cookie and carefully pressing the top of the cookie onto the jam, aligning any grooves. Let set and do not stack the cookies.


  • Heat up the jam slightly or stir vigorously to make it spreadable on the cookie.

  • Search our blog for other cookie recipes to make for holiday exchanges and gifts.


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