Fall afternoons taste better with spiced shortbread cookies and caramel apple dream tea. Stay warm and cozy with the best flavors of the season.
Fall is the time of year where it’s definitely getting colder, but it isn’t yet cold enough to turn on the heat. If you are anything like me, that leaves you reaching for mugs filled with hot liquids to thaw out your hands and keep you going all afternoon long.
While coffee is my preferred morning beverage, in the afternoon I love drinking herbal teas. I like that they are caffeine free and don’t keep me awake all night long. With 6 seasonal varieties (4 of them without caffeine) Celestial Seasonings holiday teas are quickly becoming my favorite way to enjoy the magic of tea.
Upon tasting their Caramel Apple Dream tea, I instantly thought of my spiced shortbread cookies. They are rich and buttery, with a subtle spice and a melt in your mouth crumb that keeps me coming back for more. Seriously. I ate the whole batch and had to re-bake them for the photoshoot. They are super simple to make and a delicious pairing for afternoon tea.
These spiced shortbread cookies are a spin on classic shortbread. They contain no eggs or no leaveners like baking soda or baking powder, getting their name from the fact that they do not rise when baked.
To bring the essence of fall to these cookies I’ve swapped some of the white sugar for brown and added equal parts ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. In a pinch you could sub a pumpkin spice blend, but most of those blends are mainly cinnamon with a little bit of the other spices. I found these cookies had the best flavor with equal parts of each spice.
To get started your butter needs to be soft, but not melted. If you forgot to set it out, there are a few options for cheating the clock. My favorite involves wax paper and a rolling pin.
Place the opened stick of butter on a piece of wax paper and place the paper wrapper on top. Hit the butter with your rolling pin until it’s about 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick. Alternatively you can grate the cold butter into the mixing bowl using the coarse side of a grater. Not as much fun, but much quieter.
Once your butter is softened (or pounded, or grated) gather the rest of your ingredients. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees and prepare your baking sheet. The recipe makes about 12 – 15 cookies which I can fit onto one 11″ x 17″ pan, as they will not expand when baking. I’m lazy and prefer my pans lined with parchment paper for easier clean-up, but you can use butter or a baking spray instead, no need to do both with this recipe.
In a medium sized mixing bowl combine together the flour, spices, and salt. Stir or whisk to combine, ensuring there are no clumps of spices in the flour. Place the butter in the bowl of your mixer and cream on low with your paddle attachment. After a minute the butter will become a soft, creamy texture.
Add both the white and brown sugar to the butter, then cream together. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and then add the flour mixture. The dough will take on crumbly texture that won’t hold together. Scrape the sides again, add in the cream and mix just enough to incorporate. The results should be a heavy dough that is holds it’s shape and is easy to work with.
Roll the dough out onto your work space and shape into a square or rectangle. The cookies have the best texture when the dough isn’t overworked, so I prefer to only roll them out once. Set the dough onto a lightly floured work surface, then dust the top of the dough with extra flour. Using a rolling pin – or a clean wine bottle or sturdy glass – roll the dough out until it’s about 1/4″ thick.
Next cut your cookies into shapes. My preference is for 2 1/2″ to 3″ squares or rectangles, which I make using my chef’s knife. I find with this recipe that overworking the dough can lead to tough cookies so I tend to place any odd shapes right on the pan and bake them as-is instead of re-rolling and re-shaping. These cookies taste great no matter what shape they are in!
Place all the cookies onto your prepared cookie sheet then poke holes in the top of each cookie to allow for venting. Even though they won’t rise when baked they do puff up and without the holes they can end up lumpy. I think three rows of fork tines look nice across the top, but a few holes made with a toothpick works too.
Place them on the middle rack of a preheated oven for 14 – 16 minutes. As I mentioned before they will not rise, but they will barely start to turn golden around the edges and on the bottoms. After 14 minutes check the cookies by gently lifting one and looking at the bottom. If it’s golden they are done, but if it’s still white give them another minute or two.
Allow the spiced shortbread cookies to cool on the baking pan for about 2 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack to cool completely. Once transferred, put the water on for tea because it’s time for a cookie break and you’ve earned it!
In my experience there is no wrong way to serve this caramel apple dream tea. It works with a spot of milk and sugar, it works with a bit of honey, and it works with nothing added at all. I let mine steep for about 5 minutes then sip it slowly with 2 or 3 (or 5) of these delectable spiced shortbread cookies. Learn more about Celestial Seasonings and always enjoy the magic of tea.
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Spiced Shortbread Recipe
- 1 cup plus 2 TBSP all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground allspice
- dash of salt, less than 1/8 tsp
- 1/2 cup of butter - softened at room temperature
- 1/4 cup white granulated sugar
- 2 TBSP brown sugar
- 2 TBSP heavy cream or half & half
- Preheat your oven to 250 degrees and prep an 11" x 17" baking sheet with parchment paper, butter, or baking spray.
- In a medium sized mixing bowl combine together your flour, spices, and salt. Stir or whisk to combine, ensuring there are no clumps of spices in the flour.
- Place the butter in the bowl of your mixer and cream on low with your paddle attachment. Add both the white and brown sugar to the butter, then cream together.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl and then add the flour mixture. The dough will take on crumbly texture that won't hold together well.
- Scrape the sides again, add in the cream and mix just enough to incorporate. The results should be a heavy dough that is holds it's shape and is easy to work with.
- *Roll the dough out onto your work space and shape into a square or rectangle. Set the dough onto a lightly floured work surface, then dust the top of the dough with extra flour. **Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out until it's about 1/4" thick.
- Cut your cookies into shapes using a chef's knife, cookie cutter, or glass.
- Place all the cookies onto your prepared cookie sheet and use a fork to poke holes in the top of each cookie to allow for venting.
- Place them on the middle rack of a preheated oven for 14 - 16 minutes. They are done when the bottoms and sides start to turn golden brown.
- Allow the cookies to cool on the baking pan for about 2 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack to cool completely.
The cookies have the best texture when the dough isn't overworked, so I prefer to only roll them out once. The misshapen cookies taste just as good as the perfectly shaped ones. **If you don't have a rolling pin a sturdy glass or clean wine bottle works great as a substitute.**