Saturday, December 14, 2013

Savory Cheddar shortbread


 From the festive files of Victoria Abbott

You never know when someone will show up at your door for a visit during this festive season. No matter what’s going on, you want to be prepared to offer your visitors—expected or surprise—a little something that allows you to sit and relax with your guests.

Savory cheese shortbread are easy and delicious and ready to go. I am afraid that we are quite addicted to them and polished off the first batch so fast that another had to be made to allow for photos and, of course, visitors.

As it’s confession time, quite a few of the second batch vanished too. Perhaps we need a sign in the kitchen: photos first, then samplings.

Here’s the recipe.
1 ¼ cups flour
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp cayenne
½ cup butter, cut into cubes
2 cups grated old cheddar cheese (we use Balderson extra-old or two-year old white cheddar –it’s a very tasty and award-winning local cheese – but any good quality sharp cheddar will do)
½ cup grated Parmesan
1 tsp dry thyme
1 egg or 1 egg white
Chopped pecans or walnuts for topping (optional – but very good)
After cooking toppings: Fig jam, red pepper jelly, pink Himalayan salt – or let your imagination run wild

Preheat your oven to 375.
Add flour, dry mustard, salt, cayenne and thyme in the bowl of a food processor.

Add cubed butter, grated Cheddar and Parmesan cheeses and pulse until the dough comes together – just enough to form in a ball.  If you under pulse, you’ll be left with a crumbly mess. Overdo it and your dough will be tough.

On a floured board or granite surface, form a ball. Divide it into four pieces and work one at a time.

Roll out dough to ¼ in thickness. Use cookie cutters (we like stars and moons for these, but hearts around Valentine’s Day) to cut shapes. You may have to keep reforming the dough, but that’s okay.

Transfer the shortbreads to a baking sheet (don’t grease it).

Beat the egg (or just the egg white) in a bowl and brush glaze on cookies. You can add nuts at this point or grate on some of the Himalayan salt.  You’ll think of some other toppings!
Bake for about 8 minutes, until they start to color.

You can also cook these at 300 degrees for about 18 minutes.  Suit yourselves - esp if you have a temperature you like for shortbread.

Cool on a rack. Store in a cookie tin until you are ready to serve them. Don't put the toppings until you are about to put them on a plate. 

These are best at room temperature. Top with a teaspoon of fig jam or red pepper jelly just before serving.

Pour your guest a glass of red wine and one for yourself and enjoy.

Here's a little bit more about Victoria Abbott, author of the book collector mysteries. 

Victoria is an artist and photographer and MJ is the author of 13 books in three other series, as Mary Jane Maffini. They love their book collector mysteries and are happily at work on The Wolfe Widow, third in the series.   They're very excited about the The Sayers Swindle which just launched and they're feeling festive as it made #10 on the Barnes and Noble mass market mystery list this week. Whee! Let's have a Cheddar shortbread to celebrate all that.

The Sayers Swindle, the second in the book collector mysteries hit the shelves and e-readers on December 3!

You can click here to order The Sayers Swindle!

Or here for the Kindle version!

Or order through your favorite bookstore - in person or online.

And don't forget to ....

Watch the trailer for The Sayers Swindle!


The Christie Curse, the first book collector mystery, launched in March 2013 to great reviews.

The Christie Curse is also available in Large Print! Tell your local librarian!

 Walter, the pug in the series is a dead ringer for Peachy, Victoria's new best friend. 

 Come over and friend Victoria on Facebook

Tell  her  you love the pug!


  1. Let's say one of your readers doesn't own a food processor and would still like to give this recipe a try. Would you suggest adding the cheeses with the other dry ingredients and then cutting the butter in with a pastry blender?

    When I make cheddar biscuits, I cut the butter in and then add the cheese, before adding the milk, but as these do not have a liquid ingredient, I am not sure when to add the cheeses.


    1. I haven't made them without the food processor, Lynn, but for many years I made shortbread by hand and it was wonderful. I believe you could use a hand or stand mixer or do it by hand. It would just be a tiny bit more work. Shortbread has been around a lot longer than food processors!

      Please let me know how they turn out if you try them. I'm at

      Merry kitchenmaking!

  2. Savory shortbread with really good cheddar sounds fantastic. Thanks for all of the how-to photos. They would be gone in a flash at my house.

    1. Thanks Sam! BTW, I really enjoy my visits to your Carolina kitchen.

      Have a great cooking season!

  3. The trouble with this recipe is how many the chef would eat before the guests ever came! the idea of the fig jam is brilliant....

    1. Thanks, Lucy and Roberta. I think that fig jam could rule the world under the right circumstances.

      Hope you are having fun in the run up to you know what ..;

  4. I'm in for the pepper jam, but the fig jam sounds fantastic. Your guests, whether expected or not, will no doubt snap up these savory cheddar treats--and, of course, so will Santa (but I'm sure you expect him)! Thanks for sharing this wonderful holiday recipe, MJ/Victoria, have a delicious weekend...

    ~ Cleo

    1. Thanks, Cleo, and my Italian hubby, who does not have much of a sweet tooth, practically dived into the tin to eat them.

      Maybe a Go Away sign on the door so we can eat them by ourselves?


  5. I just picked up some lovely locally-made hot pepper jam and just planned to do the basic "scoop it over a block of cream cheese" application.
    I will be making these next weekend for a party and can't wait to try them.

    1. We love the pepper jelly and jam we get at the local markets here and that's what gave us the idea. Hope you like the results, Janet!


  6. Ooo, cheesy shortbread! Can it get any better than this? Yes, by adding one of the toppings.
    Thank you so much for a great idea.

    1. Hope you like 'em, Libby. They are calling your name.



    2. I mentioned this recipe to my husband. His eyes lit up and he said this sounded like a winner to him. I think that was a hint that I should make them ASAP!

  7. Oh, my. Charlotte is going crazy for this recipe. It's a perfect complement for wine. A dessert cookie or appetizer. Yum! Love it with the jellies. Charlotte just might steal this idea and insert into her current Cheese Shop book. (Set around Valentine's day). You can imagine these cookies in the shapes of hearts, right? Yum!

    Daryl / Avery

    1. Tell Charlotte to go for it! We owe you a ton of fabulous cheese recipes.



  8. Thanks for the recipe! I'm going to try to make it gluten free - looks delicious

    1. I'd love to know how you do that - I have a number of good friends who can't eat wheat or who must be gluten free. Let me know!

  9. Right about now, what I really need is the sign that says "it's only Christmas." LOL! I love this recipe. I just bought a super special cheddar cheese (happened to be in the store when they marked it down). And I recognize the fig jam. I think it's fate – I was meant to bake these. And I love the moons and the stars. What fun!