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Cardamom Pistachio Shortbread


 What’s not to love about shortbread? Buttery, slightly crunchy, fully satisfying with coffee or tea, in a lunchbox, watching TV, late night treat — in other words, anytime at all!

I created this recipe for Gina, the Countessa –our office manager since 2001 — and we fell in love with it. What’s wonderful about shortbread is that you can add  spices, nuts, chocolate or whatever suits your fancy. The basics are just butter, sugar and flour. While traditional shortbread is cut into small squares or thin rectangles (called fingers), I sampled big rectangles of commercially made shortbread with pieces of chopped milk chocolate in it on a visit to England in 2014.

I made this shortbread in smaller rectangles as homemade shortbread can crumble or break easily. Interestingly enough, I realized recently that the reason my Scottish ancestors kneaded the shortbread dough for twenty minutes as this activated the gluten strands so that it wouldn’t be so crumbly. They then let the shortbread “age” at least a week before serving it. This allowed the gluten strands to “relax.”

I used a 9″ x 13″ pan  which created shortbread about 1/4-inch thick, and I scored it into 8 pieces before baking it to make it easier to remove from the pan. If you want a thicker shortbread, use an 8″ x 8″ pan and score it into four large squares. You could also increase the ingredients to include 1 more stick of butter, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 cup of flour and increase the spices by 1/4, and bake it in the 9″ x 13″ pan if you want more shortbread. 

Shortbread keeps well in an air-tight container, so you can make it ahead and enjoy it a week later.


Cardamom Pistachio Shortbread



1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon Vanilla Bean Paste

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (seeds from 45 pods)

1 tablespoon rosewater (optional)

1/2 cup coarsely chopped salted pistachios

Rain’s Choice Vanilla Sugars or granulated sugar for topping shortbread.

9 x 13 baking pan for thinner shortbread, 8 x 8 baking pan for thicker shortbread


Heat oven to 275 – 300 degrees F (you don’t want the oven real hot; if yours runs hot, use 275 degrees)

Place butter and sugar in a medium bowl and blend until the mixture becomes light and fluffy. Add flour, vanilla paste, cardamom and rosewater and mix until the ingredients are well blended. Add pistachios and blend well.

Pat evenly into a lightly greased pan (choose your size above). Amply sprinkle the shortbread with sugar. This is an optional step but it gives the shortbread some sparkle and crunch. Score the dough into pieces, bringing the knife to the pan but don’t separate the dough into pieces.

Bake for 25 – 35 minutes (longer if made in the 8 x 8 pan) until shortbread is golden brown and firm to the touch. Cool on a rack before removing from pan.

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