Buttery, rich shortbread is made extra special with the addition of almond paste and just the right amount of almond extract. The combination reminds me of almond-flavored marzipan candies, but with a background of salted, buttery cookie goodness.
In addition to the wonderful flavor of the cookies, I also love the ease, speed, and low-mess factor of this recipe. The dough comes together quickly in the stand mixer (feel free to use a handheld mixer), and the dough doesn’t need to chill or rest. Simply scoop the dough into balls, press them down with a cookie stamp right on the baking sheet, and bake.
What’s in a Marzipan Shortbread Cookie?
The ingredients in this marzipan shortbread are standard: butter, sugar, and flour. I do include cornstarch, which helps to keep the cookies nice and tender. I use salted butter in addition to kosher salt, which really brings out all the flavors. Almond paste and a small amount of almond extract are key ingredients.
What is Almond Paste?
One ingredient you may not have worked with before is almond paste. Made from ground blanched almonds and sugar, it’s a smooth shelf-stable paste that’s sold in grocery stores. Almond paste is a versatile ingredient that’s used in all kinds of sweet baked goods, such as pastries, tarts, breads, and these cookies.
It’s like marzipan, except that it contains more almonds and a bit less sugar, making it a softer and easier to incorporate into baked goods. I use the Odense brand, which comes in a 7-ounce log. You can find it in the baking aisle of most grocery stores or order it online.
Stamping the Cookies
These cookies are flattened and decorated with a cookie stamp. The design of the cookie stamp is up to you. I went with snowflakes for a winter holiday theme for this batch. A flower or leaf pattern would be a sweet choice for spring or summer. The cookie stamp should be 3 inches in diameter.
Stamping cookies have a little bit of a learning curve. To set yourself up for success, there are a couple of things you’ll want to do to prevent the stamp from sticking to the dough.
- Chill the cookie stamp in the freezer for at least 15 minutes—you can just pop it in the freezer before you make the dough.
- Pour a little flour into a bowl. Dip the cookie stamp into the flour and gently tap off any excess flour before stamping each cookie. Any flour left on the cookie will be absorbed as it bakes.
No Cookie Stamp? No Problem!
Instead of making individual stamped cookies, you can bake these in a shortbread pan or a square (either an 8x8-inch or a 9x9-inch) baking pan. Depending on the size of your pan, this recipe will make two or three batches.
Spread the dough into a pan, greased with shortening or butter, in an even layer that’s about 1/3 inch thick. Use a fork to prick the dough all over. If using a baking pan without a shortbread mold, score the dough into squares or rectangles using a sharp knife.
Bake it for 20 to 25 minutes in a 350°F oven until the cookie is browned around the edges and it’s no longer shiny in the middle. Let the cookie rest in the pan for 10 minutes, then flip the pan upside down onto a cooling rack to unmold the cookies, let cool, and break into pieces along the scored lines.
Tips for Baking Stamped Cookies
You can stamp your cookies on an ungreased baking sheet or on a silicone mat-lined baking sheet. Cookies on an ungreased baking sheet will spread a little bit more, while those cooked on a silicone mat will have more height.
Don’t line the baking sheet with parchment paper. It will shift around and make it very difficult to stamp the cookies properly.
Other Ways to Adapt this Shortbread Recipe
If you prefer a less salty cookie, you can use unsalted butter. These cookies can also be made dairy-free and gluten-free, by subbing in vegan butter and gluten-free flour.
How to Store Marzipan Shortbread Cookies
Transfer the baked and cooled cookies into a tightly lidded container and store at room temperature for up to one week, or in the freezer for up to three months. They don’t last that long in my house, though!
More Butter Cookies to Try
- Lime Icebox Cookies
- Hungarian Butterhorn Cookies
- Classic Shortbread Cookies
- Almond Crescent Cookies
- Cream Cheese Pecan Cookies
Marzipan Shortbread Cookies
Almond paste is sold in log form. I use a brand called Odense. It’s sometimes referred to as baking marzipan.
Use a 3-inch cookie stamp in whatever design you’d like. I used this one.
- 3 sticks (340g) salted butter, room temperature
- 3/4 cup (150g) sugar
- 1 (7-ounce) log almond paste
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 3 cups (360g) all-purpose flour, plus more for the cookie stamp
- 3/4 cup (90g) cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
Chill the cookie stamp:
Place your cookie stamp in the freezer to chill while you make the dough.
Preheat the oven:
Set an oven rack in the middle and another in the bottom third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or leave them unlined. Don’t use parchment paper—it will make it difficult to lift off the cookie stamp.
Cream the butter and sugar:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on high speed for about 2 minutes until fluffy. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
Add the almond paste and almond extract:
Add the almond paste and almond extract and cream for 2 more minutes. There may be little bits of almond paste strewn throughout the dough—this is fine.
Mix the dry ingredients:
In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, and salt, and stir to combine.
Combine all ingredients:
Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with the butter mixture again. Add half of the flour mixture. Mix on low speed until just absorbed, 15 to 20 seconds.
Scrape the bowl one last time. Add the rest of the flour mixture, and mix on low speed once again, for 15 to 20 seconds.
Form the cookies:
Use a 2 1/2-tablespoon cookie scoop to scoop the dough into 24 portions. Roll each into balls between the palm of your hands. Place 6 to 8 of the balls on each baking sheet, spacing them at least 2 inches apart. You’ll bake the cookies in two batches.
Stamp the cookies:
Dip the chilled cookie stamp into some flour, then tap off the excess. Firmly press the cookie stamp straight down onto a ball, just until the dough has spread out about 1/8 inch outside of the stamp. To lift off the cookie stamp, gently rock it back and forth as you lift.
Repeat this process, dipping the stamp into flour, tapping off excess flour, and stamping each cookie, until they are all stamped. If you’d like, you can use a paring knife to trim off the excess dough around the cookies for cleaner edges, but it’s not necessary.
Chill the cookie stamp again:
Place the cookie stamp back in the freezer so it will be cold for the second batch.
Bake the cookies:
Bake the cookies for 9 to 11 minutes, rotating the baking sheets and switching their positions in the oven halfway through baking. The cookies are done when they are just turning golden brown around the edges.
Cool the cookies:
Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes. Use a spatula to transfer them to cooling racks. Let them cool completely, about 1 hour