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The Taste Of Christmas Past

Well, it’s about time that I got my Christmas baking boots on, now, isn’t it?

For weeks, my feed reader has been choc-a-bloc with blog postings stuffed with festive baked goods, and I can only hold out against that kind of onslaught for so long. So, having realised that resistance was futile, I closed my eyes and let my mind drift across the sea of baked possibilities. I ended up in Spain.


While I was still, unquestionably, in Ireland, I had found myself dreaming of that Spanish confection known as turrón. It’s made primarily from toasted almonds and honey, and varies in texture from break-your-teeth hard to soft and fudgy. When I was a kid, my brother, who lived in Spain, would bring a selection home at Christmas and I have been a sucker for turrón, particularly the soft variety, ever since. It’s just as well I can’t lay my hands on it too easily here – I inhale and it’s gone. And while the brother hasn’t lived in Spain for years, in my head Christmas is still flavoured with almond and honey. So I thought that I would try to capture that in festive shortbread form. I was very pleased that I did.

Almond, Honey and Orange Shortbread, inspired by Christmas past

Shortbread, inspired by Christmas past

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Almond, Honey and Orange Shortbreads

These little shortbread bites are crumbly and melty in the mouth and just the thing to have with coffee. They actually started out life as a recipe for pecan puffs, one of the many items covered in the Bake course with Rachel Allen, but the pecans made way for toasted almonds, vanilla was ditched in favour of orange zest and amaretto, the sugar lost out to its cousin honey and the crumbly shortbread texture was emphasised with the addition of a little rice flour. I also dipped them in chocolate, just because.

Use a nice floral honey if you can. I actually had some wonderful honey which was harvested by some friends in Spain and it seemed a very appropriate choice. The orange (which was one that I got in my regular organic veg deliveries from Absolutely Organic) was deeply orange and fragrant. I used the amaretto to underline the almond flavour but they’re also good without.

You’ll need:
  • 100g almonds
  • 100g plain flour
  • 25g rice flour or cornflour (cornstarch), or substitute additional plain flour
  • good pinch of salt
  • 100g unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tblsp honey
  • zest of half an orange (about 1 tsp)
  • 1 tsp amaretto (optional)
  • 25g icing sugar, sifted, for coating (optional)
  • approx. 50g good quality dark chocolate for dipping (optional) – I used Ó Conaill 70% dark chocolate
You’ll also need:
  • A food processor or similarly bladed instrument for grinding the almonds, plus a large baking sheet for baking the biscuits – mine was around 24cm x 30cm – and a smaller sized baking tray for toasting the almonds.
The Steps:
  • Preheat your oven to 150C.
  • Spread the almonds out on a baking tray and toast in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the flesh of the nuts starts to brown (which you’ll see if you remove an almond and slice through it). Allow to cool a little and grind finely using a food processor.
  • Whisk the plain flour, rice flour and salt together well in a medium-sized bowl. Add the ground toasted almonds and whisk again.
  • In a separate bowl, beat the butter until light and fluffy (or use a food processor or stand mixer to do the job for you).
  • Add the honey, orange zest and amaretto to the butter and beat well.
  • Gradually incorporate the flour and almond mixture into the butter. When done, you should end up with a ball of dough which will be just slightly tacky to the touch.
  • Scoop heaped teaspoonfuls of the dough into the palm of your hand, roll into balls, then place on the baking sheet and flatten slightly, either using the palm of your hand or the base of a glass. You should end up with little discs, around 3cm wide and 0.5-1cm high.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the biscuits are just starting to darken at the edges.
  • Allow to cool slightly for about 2 minutes, then toss the biscuits in the icing sugar and leave to cool fully on a wire rack.
  • If you fancy dipping the biscuits in chocolate, then chop the chocolate finely and either melt in the microwave (zapping it until barely melted) or in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of hot (not simmering) water. Once melted, dip roughly one half of each biscuit in the chocolate and leave to set on a wire tray.
  • When cool, dust with some more icing sugar and enjoy with your Christmas tea or coffee.
The Variations:
  • Replace the orange zest with some espresso powder and/or replace the almonds + amaretto with hazelnuts + frangelico
The Results:
  • Makes around 30 to 35 biscuits, though I eat around 3, no, 5, no 10 at a time, so you’ll probably want to double the recipe.

By the by, for those of you who were wondering, the winner of the box of tayto was Orla Doyle. Congratulations Orla and enjoy the crisp sandwiches!


  1. OysterCulture

    Sounds fantastic and looks even better, if that’s possible. I love turron and can only imagine the goodness, I’ll find here. Your brilliance is beginning to scare me.

  2. George@CulinaryTravels

    There is something very Christmassy about shortbread, but I’m not sure exactly what as it’s something I make a lot throughout the year. I’ve never made it with honey though, so thanks for prompting me.

    Gorgeous shot too Aoife.

  3. aoife mc

    Oooh these look fabulous. I had a real biscuit fail the other day so my baking confidence has taken yet another knock. I’ll give these a go over the hols.

  4. Phoo-D

    I too have been virtually sugared out by the onslaught of cookie posts out there, but these cookies – these made me sit up and think about turning on the oven. They sound absolutely delightful!

  5. The Diva on a Diet

    Oh, yum! I especially like the orange zest addition … so, so good with chocolate. The powdered sugar looks nice and festive too! :)

  6. jenn

    You know shortbread is one thing I haven’t baked yet. I think I need to remedy that ASAP. Plus there’s no better season to make them than in Christmas.

  7. Chef E

    Do I have permission to duplicate this title in my 12 Days of Christmas…I hate to copy… These cookies would have me drifting to other lands in a cookie boat, on chocolate icing seas…

    Hey wait word verification is english and brazil…

  8. Daily Spud

    OysterCulture: most kind of you to say so – I will now have to take something to stop my head from swelling :)

    George: Thank you! I guess tins of Scottish shortbread are one of those things that are wont to turn up amongst the endless piles of Christmas biscuits. Having made these, I’m going to have to remind myself to make shortbread more often.

    aoife mc: oh no, sorry to hear about your baking woes – hope these turn out well for you, they’re good’uns

    Phoo-D: wow, delighted to have stood out even a little bit from the general sugar rush :)

    Diva: yep, looks like its been snowin’ on my shortbread…

    jenn: absolutely, go for it!

    Chef E: permission granted and happy travels :)

  9. Natasha - 5 Star Foodie

    These are looking scrumptious! I would love a few right now!

  10. The Duo Dishes

    Swoon! You hit all the good spots with this, especially the citrus.

  11. Karine

    Your shortbreads look delicious! Thanks for sharing :)

  12. Jenni

    I think that I would like it in Spain very much:) Nice job w/the cookies, DS–when in Florida, we were lousy w/orange blossom honey. Would be perfect w/these guys!

  13. Crystal

    Everyone’s in the Christmas baking mode – a wonderful place to be! These look great – I love Turron so thanks for this.

  14. Sophie

    Georgous, festive & ooh so beautiful cookies!!

    MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM,….all the way!!

  15. Daily Spud

    Natasha: I find them hard to resist myself!

    Duo Dishes: thanks and I hope you didn’t hurt yourselves with all that swooning :D

    Karine: …and thanks for dropping by, glad you liked.

    Jenni: oh orange blossom honey would indeed be perfect – might just have to drift off to Florida too while I’m at it!

    Crystal: you’re welcome, enjoy :)

    Sophie: you said it!

  16. Helen

    Thank you sooo much for this – just took my second batch out of the oven and burnt my tongue testing them, so good! seriously, I’m normally a baking disaster zone so thrilled these worked for me :)

  17. Lori

    This holiday has been one of cookie discoveries for me. The turron would fall into that category. These sound and look so great!

  18. Daily Spud

    Helen: wow, thanks for letting me know – delighted that they worked out so well for you!

    Lori: thanks – I have bookmarked so many cookie-like recipes over the past few weeks, I just hope I get the chance to try even a fraction of them…

  19. Tangled Noodle

    How inspired! I just had a taste of Spanish turrón (from a gift to my parents); there is also a Filipino version that wraps finger-length slices in rice paper. Now, we can enjoy it in shortbread form – hooray!

  20. Daily Spud

    Ooh, now I want to try the Filipino version TN! Failing that, though, I can always make another batch of these :)

  21. Naailah

    Do i need to peel the almonds before toasting them in the oven??

  22. Daily Spud

    Hi Naailah – no, there’s no need to peel the almonds before toasting them. Hope you enjoy the shortbreads!

  23. Naailah

    Do u think i can store the dough in the refrigerator for a day?

  24. Daily Spud

    Hello again Naailah – I shouldn’t think that there would be a problem with storing the dough in the fridge for a day or even a little longer, provided it’s well wrapped with plastic wrap or foil or somesuch.

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