This Pecan-Cranberry Shortbread Recipe Is a Must-Bake for Your Cookie Swap

This cookie has all the good stuff—pecans, cranberries, and chocolate.

Pecan-Cranberry Shortbread
Photo: Zoe Denenberg / Southern Living

If you had asked me why I chose to make this recipe for the first time, I would've said: "Because it sounds like the most Southern, Christmasy cookie ever...that doesn't require more steps than 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' and twice as many ingredients." And it still rings true.

Shortbread is a classic Christmas recipe. This one dresses up for the holiday occasion by adding cranberries for a dose of holiday cheer, pecans to give a traditional Southern touch, and chocolate drizzle to seal it all with signature everything-is-better-with-chocolate flair.

The best part is it's easy enough for a novice baker. It only requires 11 ingredients, half of which you probably already have. Throw everything in a food processor and pulse that baby into buttery submission. How could it not deliver?

It delivered, of course, but not without a few rookie mishaps. For example, I thought myself quite clever when I borrowed (read: smuggled out) two coffee cups of pecans from the office snack pantry. (No one eats those, anyway!)

It turns out coffee cups aren't the most reliable container when shoved into your stuffed black tote. And as I sat there crouched over in my parked car, clawing out pecan pieces from the bottom of the tote, I couldn't help but wonder, "Is that Julia Child rolling over in her grave, I hear?"

The rest of the recipe went without too much drama, and you end up with festive shortbread cookies that'll show off at any holiday swap.

Pecan-Cranberry Shortbread
Linda Pugliese, Hector Sanchez; Styling: Heather Chadduck Hillegas, Buffy Hargett Miller

Tips for Making Pecan-Cranberry Shortbread Cookies

1. The recipe calls for cutting the shortbread into wedges, but to make it more traditionally cookie-sized and Christmas-inspired, I recommend using cookie cutters. It instantly increases the cookie curb appeal tenfold.

2. Double up the recipe, and invest in the extra tart pan to save time. Otherwise, one batch is not much more than the perfect size for a small group or household snack.

3. Place anything slightly raised with a flat bottom—a bowl or short drinking glass—upside-down on the counter to separate the tart pan between baking steps without jostling the tender dough or, you know, burning yourself.

4. Make sure the shortbread completely cools before starting the chocolate drizzle process. Once that stuff melts, there's no going back. Use it immediately, or it will become a thick, goopy, and unusable mess.

5. Try to freehand the chocolate drizzle onto a piece of parchment paper first. If you're like me, it will end in disaster. The ultimate trick: Pour the melted chocolate into a Ziploc bag, squeeze until it's all snug in one of the corners, snip the tiniest bit off from that corner, and pipe it on instead. It's so, so much easier.

6. If the melted chocolate doesn't seem thin or smooth enough, add just a touch more shortening to it and stir.

7. Let the shortbread cookies cool completely after drizzling the chocolate on top—until it looks dry and hardened. The chocolate will smear or flake off if you try to put them in a Tupperware container too soon.

That's that. Now you're set with super tasty, buttery, crisp shortbread cookies to impress all of your family and friends.

Christmas cookies are what make the holiday season oh-so-sweet. What's your favorite recipe?

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