Salty Cashew Shortbread (Holiday Cookies)

Salty Cashew Shortbread (Holiday Cookies)

121117 salty cashew shortbread close

These are what I consider an Afternoon Cookie. They’re not too heavy, so you don’t feel like you’ve overindulged if you have more than one. They’re barely sweet enough to feel like a treat, just the thing to accompany that much-needed cup of caffeine. They have a subtle, borderline mysterious flavor—cashews are familiar but not necessarily an everyday food, and orange zest lends brightness while staying in the background.

In short they ain’t kids’ cookies, although my weirdo offspring loved them (cashews are his favorite nut, go figure).

At first bite you’re tempted to shrug, as if they’re nothing special. But then you take a second bite, and a third, and then grab another cookie, until you find yourself licking your finger to pick up the last crumbly bits and wondering how you could’ve possibly eaten so many of something so plain.

121117 salty cashew shortbread gift

I settled on these as my holiday gift for clients because they stay fresh for a surprisingly long time (I just ate one that’s over a week old, and it was perfect), and crumbly as they are, they’re still sturdy enough for shipping. Over the last six weeks I’ve baked close to a dozen batches of these irresistible biscuits—I ordered a five-pound bag of cashews from Oh Nuts, my favorite source for this kind of thing.

I’m pretty sure more than half of those cookies never made it out my front door.

Salty Cashew Shortbread
Inspired by Leite’s Culinaria
Makes about 20 cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup salted, roasted cashews
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons fresh orange juice
1 1/2 teaspoons orange zest (from half a small orange; use organic if possible)
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
Maldon or other flaky sea salt

  1. Pulse the flour, cashews, dark brown sugar, orange juice, and orange zest in the bowl of a food processor until the cashews are finely ground, 1 to 2 minutes. Scatter the butter pieces over the mixture and pulse a few times, until the dough starts to cling together. It should still look fairly dry and crumbly.
  2. Place a sheet of wax paper on your work surface, and empty the food processor onto it. Use clean hands to work the dough together the rest of the way, stopping as soon as it holds together. Shape it into a log about 2 inches in diameter and 10 to 12 inches long. Transfer to a sheet of plastic wrap and wrap tightly, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 5 days. (I store logs of dough in paper towel rolls, to help keep their shape.)
  3. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of your oven and preheat to 325°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats and set aside.
  4. Cut the chilled dough into 1/2-inch thick rounds (I use a thin, long knife) and transfer to the baking sheets, at least an inch apart. Sprinkle the tops with the flaky salt, and bake for 14 to 18 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through. The cookies are done when they’re lightly browned.
  5. Cool on the baking sheets until firm enough to transfer to wire racks.

MAKE BABY FOOD: Sorry, not this one.


121117 salty cashew shortbread cookies