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Nostalgic holiday recipes - Chocolate-Kissed Shortbread

This recipe is a "new" classic for me. We never made it when I was a kid but now I can't get through the holidays without it.

I got this recipe from a friend of mine while I was hanging out with the Renaissance Faire crowd in Southern California. I was amazed at how simple shortbread is to make: three ingredients mixed together and baked. I added a bit of almond extract to smooth out the taste and a bit of salt to emphasize the almond flavor and wow, what a yummy bit of baking.

I started adding chocolate to the shortbread when a friend of mine made the obnoxious comment "there's nothing wrong with these cookies that couldn't be fixed with chocolate." The white chocolate-peppermint Kisses look particularly festive, although my favorite for taste is dark chocolate.

Chocolate-Kissed Shortbread

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

4 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract

Hershey's Kisses, any variety

METHOD:

Cream together the butter, sugar, salt and almond or vanilla extract, beating until light and fluffy. Gradually add the flour and mix well - you may need to mix in the last bit by hand. Refrigerate at least 2 hours. Separate the dough into pieces just smaller than a golf ball and roll between your hands to form a ball. Place each ball in the cup of a mini muffin/tart pan and press to make the dough form to the cup. Bake at 300 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes or until the dough begins to yellow but not turn brown. Cool on a rack about 10 minutes, then gently turn each cookie to loosen it, then remove it from the pan. While the cookies are still hot, place a Kiss in the center of each one, pressing the chocolate slightly into the top of the cookie. Let the chocolate melt a bit, then press down again gently to make sure the chocolate sticks. Let the cookies cool completely on a wire rack, then wrap individually in plastic wrap or stack gently in an airtight container.

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