Almond Roca shortbread

As I mentioned before, I tend to think of shortbread and icebox cookies at this time of year.  If you're like me, you've probably had quite a few batches of Christmas cookies coming out of the kitchen and been savoring plenty of holiday goodies in general.  That said, let's squeeze in one more recipe for this holiday season.
Have you ever had Almond Roca?  They are small log-shaped buttercrunch/toffee coated in chocolate and almonds.  Growing up, they were the only candies I can remember my mother liking.  I used to eat them, too, and while they weren't my very favorite, I certainly enjoyed them and loved scraping off the chocolate and almond coating and then biting into that crunchy toffee center.
Last month, I caught a cookie roundup over at Kelly's blog (I do enjoy seeing all the holiday recipe roundups and gift guides at this time of year) and saw a recipe for Almond Roca cookies...it made me think of all those red tins of Almond Roca we used to have around the house during the holidays or around Chinese New Year.  

So I thought it would be fun to make these cookies, which are essentially shortbread with sliced almonds and toffee bits folded in.  To simplify things a little bit, I used chocolate-coated toffee bits (instead of plain) and omitted the chocolate coating on top of the baked shortbread.  
These were a fun version of shortbread to make and eat!  They have that classic sandy texture with extra crunch from the almonds and toffee bits.  If you like nuts and crunch in your cookies, this Almond Roca shortbread is a great rendition to try one day.



Checkerboard icebox cookies

It goes without saying that the clock ticks on and that seems never more true than during the holidays, around December, when time is precious and it really flies.  That said, I've been making an effort to be organized and realistic in my December plans.  I think I'm doing well this year - I don't feel rushed and I'm savoring the season, which means simple things like family gatherings, an outing or two to see the lights and sights of the city, and time to enjoy all the wonderful seasonal treats.
I love seeing, buying, and enjoying all the festive holiday goodies at this time of year!  I can hardly resist a colorful box or any kind of foil-wrapped chocolates.  I make sure we indulge in plenty of that along with some homemade treats. Holiday baking is a real pleasure and I love days when the kitchen turns into a mini cookie factory and I churn out a batch or two of Christmas cookies.  
Come this time of year, I think of all kinds of cookies but particularly, I think of shortbread and icebox type cookies - the sandy, crumbly cookies that I frankly don't make too often otherwise.  They always seem to hit the spot - a great accompaniment to a cup of hot chocolate or coffee.  The slice-and-bake kind of cookies are also convenient, great for impromptu enjoyment or for gift-giving.   

For fun, I recently tried a batch of checkerboard icebox cookies.  Not only is the pattern fun (like that Battenberg cake I made a while back) but you also get to combine two classic flavors - vanilla and chocolate - in one cookie.  Best of both worlds!
I was afraid the cookie might be tricky to pull off but the recipe comes from The Perfect Cookie book by America's Test Kitchen, which gave me the convenience to tackle it.  It really was easy to do and the cookies came together like a charm.  I'm happy with how my first attempt turned out and the pattern of the cookie is not only fun to see but tasty to eat.  I think we were partial to the chocolate part of these checkerboard cookies but that probably doesn't surprise anyone who knows me.



Red velvet crackle cookies

"Operation: Make/Eat Christmas Cookies" is in full swing!  Basically, I make it a leisurely monthlong process at my house.  I make cookies, we eat cookies, and we repeat this simple process.  I know some people make Christmas cookies in one frenzied swoop right before the big day and I love this idea of turning my house into a cookie factory for a day with a massive output but I never could figure out how to make that work.  Stretching it out, generally enjoying it a batch at a time, works for us and that's what we do throughout late November and December.  
So in the spirit of making and eating cookies during the holiday season, here's my latest contribution.  No surprise "crackle" (or "crinkle") cookies make an appearance because they usually do.  Their snow-topped appearance makes them perfect for the winter and holiday time.  I've made a few versions and I'm always looking for another to try during this time of year.  When I saw this recipe for red velvet crackle cookies, I knew I'd found the one for this holiday season.
I saw the recipe in this lovely Holiday Cookies book.  Naturally, I liked the red velvet aspect - the color fitting for the holiday season.  I also liked that the recipe had not only cocoa in it but also melted chocolate.  And brown, rather than granulated, sugar suggested a nice soft, moist texture that appeals to us.  Sure enough, these red velvet crackles were very chocolaty and moist.  They are chocolate crackle cookies dressed in red for the holidays!



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