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Holiday Shortbread with a Twist

Every year my family gathers for our annual cookie bake.  My dad, mom, sister, and daughter-in-law (fellow blogger Amanda) all gather together to bake for about 10 hours straight. 




Every year my family gathers for our annual cookie bake.  My dad, mom, sister, and daughter-in-law (fellow blogger Amanda) all gather together to bake for about 10 hours straight.  We each have a very specific role during our cookie bakes.  My mom and I prepare most of the dough, although my sister and Amanda help, too.  We also are in charge of baking the cookies.  My dad forms the cookies requiring “balls,” runs to the store for forgotten ingredients, helps with the decorating and of course is the official taster for the day.  And, Amanda and my sister are the official decorators as both have an artistic flair. 

Each of us has our favorite cookies we insist on making each year. We typically make around 14 or 15 different kinds.  Some are family recipes my grandma made others are favorites from Land O’Lakes.  My sister always has to try one or two new recipes.  She likes to make things that are cute and add a special touch to our assortment.  I have found the perfect recipe for her to try this year, Lemon Shortbread Trees.

These cookies are colorful, cute, and tasty – the perfect combination.  Since we don’t have a “favorite” shortbread recipe we make each year, they will also add a new variety to our mix.  They also leverage my sister’s artistic touch since she can decorate them any way she likes.

These slice and bake cookies are really quite simple to make.  A touch of lemon adds a refreshing flavor to a traditional shortbread cookie.   A wide variety of decorator sprinkles will allow you to have more fun creating your very own “trees”.

Since the dough needs to be refrigerated for about 2 hours be sure to work that into your plans.  You can always make the dough a day or two ahead and store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake the cookies.

To make the dough combine the flour, powdered sugar, and corn starch in a medium bowl and set it aside.  Corn starch makes shortbread cookies extra tender.


Beat the butter in a large bowl until creamy.


Reduce speed to low and add the flour mixture, lemon juice, and lemon zest.  I just love the wonderful aroma of fresh lemon!  Beat until a dough forms.


 Shape the dough into two (8-inch) logs.


Press the sides of the logs to form triangles with a 1-inch base and 2-inch sides.  This forms the tree shape so that when you slice the cookies you will have tree shaped slices.  I know it sounds a little hard to do but, it is really quite easy.  Just use your hands to manipulate the dough.


Wrap both logs tightly in plastic food wrap.


Refrigerate for at least 2 hours to firm up the dough.  As I mentioned earlier, you can refrigerate the dough up to a couple of days.  Placing the dough logs on a cookie sheet or tray makes them easier to transport.


When you are ready to bake the cookies, heat the oven to 350°F.  Working with one dough triangle log at a time, remove the plastic food wrap. Using a sharp knife cut logs into 3/8-inch slices.


Place the triangles 1-inch apart onto ungreased cookie sheets.


Insert a pretzel stick half into the 1-inch side (bottom of the tree) of each triangle.  Insert only about ¼ -inch of the pretzel into the cookie.


Press each cookie with a zigzag style potato masher to create horizontal lines for “trees.”  If you don’t have a zigzag potato masher just use the handle of a table knife to create the same affect. 



Now decorate with a variety of decorator sprinkles.


I used red hot candies at the top of each tree.  Be sure to place the red hot candies completely on the cookie dough and not too close to the edge or they will melt in the oven and run onto the cookie sheet.  The candies harden to the cookie sheet and will break off the tip of the cookies as you remove them from the pan.  See what happens?


Bake the cookies for 9 to 11 minutes or until the edges are very lightly browned.  Cool 1 minute on the cookie sheet.


Now remove the cookies to a cooling rack.


These Lemon Shortbread cookies will make a great addition to your holiday cookie plate.


Aren’t these cookies adorable?  This recipe and more holiday recipes can be found in our holiday recipe brochure, Homemade for the Holidays.

I’d love to hear how you decorate your tender shortbread holiday cookies.  Also come back and rate and review this recipe.

Have you ever wondered what a Linzer cookie is?  Find out the answer on Thursday when Liz makes these holiday cookies.


Becky Wahlund is the Director of the Test Kitchen for Land O'Lakes and writes for our Recipe Buzz™ Blog.

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Ready to make the recipe? Let’s get started making Lemon Shortbread Christmas Tree Cookies!

lemon shortbread christmas tree cookies
Lemon Shortbread Christmas Tree Cookies