Viennese shortdough or Mürbteig is my
new favorite Christmas cookie. I’ve only just discovered the recipe and I’m
already on my third batch this week. I’m usually not so enthusiastic about
making Christmas cookies because I tire easily of the repetition it requires,
but this cookie dough changes everything!
First of all, it’s delicious. Like a cross between a sugar
cookie and shortbread, it has a melt-in-your-mouth tenderness. Secondly,
the baked cookies improve upon standing. How perfect for busy holiday bakers!
The cookies can be made several days ahead, and they mellow and become more
flavorful over time. The unfilled cookies keep for two weeks and the dough can
be frozen for up to six months!
I especially appreciated being able to make several types of cookies from one batch. The diversity of tasks kept my mind active and free of cookie fatigue.
The citron slices were my favorite. I just love how sparkly and jeweled they look.
Somehow, little dusty wings seemed appropriate on the cookie tray, though not entirely Christmasy.
I used a hand-drawn template to make them.
This dough is made in the food processor, but if you don’t have one you can cut the butter into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter, then gently blend in the egg yolks. Try not to overwork the dough, or the baked cookies will be too crumbly. Knead for only a short time.
Isn’t it great to find a recipe you can hang your hat on? I can’t wait to bring my cookie tray to our family’s Christmas eve party.
Viennese Shortdough (Basic Mürbteig Pastry)
Yield: About 4 dozen cookies [click for printable recipe]
Adapted from my favorite vintage cookbook The New Pastry Cook by Helen S. Fletcher
This all-in-one cookie dough is easily made with a food processor. The unfilled baked cookies will keep well for 10-14 days in an airtight tin. In fact, they improve with age. Doubling this recipe is not recommended, even in a large machine. Successive batches may be made without cleaning the bowl and blade. Over-processing the dough will make it too crumbly and the cookies will fall apart, so do be careful to not overwork the dough. I’ve listed all my variations under the basic recipe, but I’m sure you could think up some of your own!
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 lb. (2 US sticks) unsalted butter
3 egg yolks
- Place lemon zest and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process for 1-2 minutes. Sugar should be pale yellow and fragrant with lemon. Add the flour and salt, process for 5 seconds to mix. Cut butter into pieces and place in a circle on top of the flour mixture in the food processor. Process for about 20 seconds, or until the butter is cut into the flour very finely. Mixture should be light and powdery. Add yolks in a circle on top of the mixture and process for 20-30 seconds until a ball forms. Process again 10 seconds longer. Roll dough between sheets of wax paper or parchment paper to 1/4-inch thickness.
- Preheat oven to 350F. Reduce temperature to 325F just before putting the cookies in the oven.
Cut out cookies:
- Remove top sheet of wax paper and cut out shapes with cookie cutters. Dough is very buttery, so I did not have to flour my cookie cutters. If dough wants to stick, dip cookie cutters in flour. Transfer cut outs to a parchment-lined cookie sheet using a spatula.
- Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, or place cut-outs in the freezer for 15-20 minutes (preferred). Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on size. Let cool completely and dust with confectioners’ sugar or frost as desired. Scraps can be re-rolled between wax paper and cut again.
Jam, melted (seedless is normally used. I used red currant.)
Chopped nuts such as almonds, pecans or pistachios
- Between the palms of your hands roll pieces of Mürbteig into balls about the size of walnuts (I rolled mine slightly smaller). Roll balls into chopped nuts and place on an ungreased baking sheet. With your index finger, make a deep indentation to the bottom of each ball but do not go through it.
- Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, or place in the freezer for 15-20 minutes (preferred). Bake for 20-22 minutes; do not overbake. Cool on the baking sheet 5 minutes. Fill the indentations with jam before serving.
Candied citron, candied orange peel
Egg white, beaten
- Use a square or round 3-inch cookie cutter to cut shapes from the dough. Brush surface of cut-outs with egg white and top with candied citron and orange peel. Place on an ungreased or parchment lined baking sheet.
- Chill for 30 minutes, or place in freezer for 15-20 minutes. Bake for 15-20 minutes.
Note: You can replace the citron and orange peel with nuts to make “Nut Slices”. Brush only the surface of the cookie with egg white, brushing the sides of the cookies will glue them to the baking sheet.
Prepared white chocolate ganache (click for recipe)
Maraschino cherries with stems, drained and patted dry
- Press pieces of Murbteig dough into the cavities and up the sides of an ungreased mini muffin pan. Chill for 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely (very important!). When pan is completely cold and dough cups have hardened, remove them from the cavities by lifting them out of the pan with a finger.
- Fill cooled cups with ganache and sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar. Top with a maraschino cherry.
Jelly Window Sandwiches:
Seedless jam, melted
- Cut dough with Linzer-type cookie cutters. Transfer cut outs to a parchment-lined cookie sheet using a spatula. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, or place cut-outs in the freezer for 15-20 minutes (preferred). Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on size. Let cool completely.
- Brush surface of windowless cookie with jam and top with the window cookie. Fill center with more melted jam.