The Autumnal Spices Ina Garten Uses To Make Unforgettable Shortbread

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Among all the cookie recipes out there — from classic peanut butter to red velvet to brown butter chocolate chip — there's just something about buttery, sandy-textured shortbread cookies. Like the little black dress of the cookie world, shortbread seems to go with anything, is wonderful all on its own, and also takes well to glamming up, such as with red and green Christmas sprinkles or with layers of caramel and chocolate. Excellent on a cookie plate alongside other delectable treats and the perfect companion to a hot mug of coffee or tea, it's pretty hard to go wrong with a fresh-baked batch of shortbread — something Ina Garten, aka the Barefoot Contessa, knows all too well.

The beloved cookbook author, cooking show host, and doyenne of entertaining is partial to a shortbread cookie, as evidenced by her plethora of recipes for them: Garten's website lists two types of Linzer-type shortbread hearts; chocolate-dipped brown sugar shortbread; ginger shortbread; shortbread cookies with dragées; pecan shortbread; and, last but not least, a spiced shortbread cookie that's perfect for the upcoming holiday season.

Cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves bring warmth

When Ina Garten's newest cookbook, "Go-To Dinners," dropped last month, its content didn't come as much of a surprise: After all, the Food Network host is widely regarded as the queen of such easy yet impressive meals as mussels with saffron cream, Tuscan white bean soup, and overnight mac and cheese. Luckily for Garten fans, the new release includes not just savory foods but plenty of desserts, including a cinnamon-spiced shortbread that will make a welcome addition to any holiday cookie swap or meal.

As Garten told Delish, the spiced cookies utilize Eli Zabar's shortbread base, which the TV host has been relying on since 1999 when her first cookbook debuted. "This is the perfect shortbread," she said of the recipe. "I've used it for so many things, including a tart crust for a raspberry tart." With that perfection as a starting point, Garten ups the ante with a familiar trio of fall spices — cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove — which, when used together, taste recognizable and exotic at the same time. 

"I like spices that you aren't quite sure what it is, but it's familiar in some way," Garten told Delish. Stamped into star shapes, baked, and then sprinkled with spiced granulated sugar while they're still warm, the shortbread cookies are just the thing to "leave out for Santa" — ie, hide from your family until past midnight — this holiday season.