Happy December! I hope everyone had a relaxing Thanksgiving weekend. We haven't quite pulled out the boxes from the attic to decorate for winter…but we're getting there. Until then, we're slowly moving from Thanksgiving flavors to winter num-nums with these shortbread cookies with two toppings: Cranberry sauce and salted caramel with rosemary. 

Winter shortbread cookies: salted caramel with rosemary and cranberry 

Rosemary to me has always had a distinctly piney aroma. It can be completely overwhelming, but when paired with something sweet and rich (caramel and shortbread), the almost sharp rosemary oil comes through. Cranberries on the other hand, are perfect for rich shortbread on their own with their tart, bright flavor. And oddly, since I never thought I would say this, the husband and I are hooked on making our own cranberry sauce…so that 3 pound bag from Costco is long gone at this point. 

Just so we're clear…before we get to the recipe, shortbread is in no way healthy. At all. But in tiny finger cookie form, it's the right serving size with the right flavor profiles for the season. Sometimes food, okay? I also think this is a great hostess trick: you can create multiple desserts with one cookie base. Think chocolate drizzles, candy cane crumbles…lots of possibilities. 

christmas cranberry shortbread cookies 

Winter Shortbread Cookies: 2 Ways

Shortbread Cookies From Ina Garten

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Mix butter and sugar with paddle attachment in a mixer. Add vanilla, salt and flour. Mix on low until combined. Dump onto a surface and shape into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30-45 minutes. Once removed from the fridge or freezer, remove plastic and fold dough over itself until it holds shape. Keep working it until none of the dry bits fall out. Seriously, keep going! Roll out until 1/2 inch thick and cut into fingers. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the edges brown. Cool.

Topping 1: Salted Caramel and Rosemary: Sauce from Pioneer Woman 

  • 1 packed cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • Pinch salt (I use Himalayan sea salt) 
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Rosemary for after...

DirectionsMix the brown sugar, half-and-half, butter and salt in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook while whisking gently for 5 to 7 minutes, until it gets thicker. Add the vanilla and cook another minute to thicken further. Turn off the heat, cool slightly and pour the sauce into a jar. Refrigerate until cold (so the sauce thickens). Drizzle on cookie and add a few rosemary leaves. 

Topping 2: Cranberry Sauce: from me

  • 1 cup cranberries
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sugar

Directions: Add ingredients to a small pot on the stove. Cover with lid and cook on medium until cranberries 'pop'. Mash with spoon, remove lid and continue to cook until the sauce begins to thicken and 'gel' at the sides of the pot. Total, it should be about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Add to shortbread cookies in a line. 



You'll definitely have left over sauces from these recipes…but that's a very good thing. I like to dip fruit in the salted caramel sauce and eat the cranberry sauce with kind of everything at this point. but especially hot cereal.

1. Don't forget to enter to win $25 to Harris Teeter for your holiday grocery needs! Enter here!

2. Do you have a favorite flavor combination that would work with shortbread?

Dietitian Nutritionist. My husband Chris and I create food and beverage photos, videos, stopmotions and recipes. And they're really cool.