Pine Nut Shortbread With Goat Cheese Spread and Balsamic Glaze 26.000

Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post

Holiday Cookies 2013 Dec 4, 2013

Each cookie yields a complete, sophisticated bite, with complementary flavors and textures; see VARIATIONS, below.

The figs need to macerate for 1 to 2 hours. The dough needs to rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. The cutout cookies need to be refrigerated for 15 minutes before baking. The spread can be refrigerated up to 2 days in advance. It’s best to assemble the cookies just before serving.

Make Ahead: All of the components (pine nut shortbread cookie dough, toasted pine nuts, goat cheese spread, balsamic reduction, rehydrated figs) can be prepared days in advance.

26 cookies

When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 26 cookies

  • For the figs
  • 1 cup port wine
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • Two 3-inch cinnamon sticks
  • 5 allspice berries
  • 7 to 8 plump dried figs
  • For the cookies
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, plus 3 tablespoons, whole and toasted, for garnish (see NOTE)
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups flour, plus more for the work surface
  • Small pinch salt
  • For the spread
  • 4 ounces soft goat cheese
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar
  • 1 tablespoon regular or low-fat milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • For the glaze
  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar


For the figs: Combine the port, water, sugar, cinnamon sticks and allspice in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once it starts to bubble at the edges, cook for 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 8 to 10 minutes to form a slightly reduced syrup. Remove from the heat.

Add the dried figs; cover and macerate for 1 to 2 hours. If your saucepan is so shallow that it doesn't allow for the syrup to cover the figs, transfer the figs and syrup to a smaller, deep container.

For the cookies: Pulse the 1/4 cup of pine nuts in a food processor until finely ground.

Combine the butter, granulated sugar and vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer on medium speed to form a lightened, smooth and fluffy mixture. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

On low speed, gradually add the flour and salt; beat until thoroughly incorporated. Add the ground pine nuts; beat to form a smooth dough. Flatten the cookie dough into a disk; wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with silicone liners or parchment paper.

Spread the 3 tablespoons of whole pine nuts on one of the baking sheets; toast in the oven for 8 to 12 minutes, shaking them once or twice to promote even browning. Cool to room temperature.

Unwrap the cookie dough and cut it in half. Work one half of the dough with your hands until it's pliable, but not so much that it becomes too soft and warm. Sprinkle flour over the work surface, then place the dough on it. Roll out to a thickness of 1/4 inch to 1/8 inch, sprinkling additional flour as needed and turning dough 90 degrees after each time it’s rolled so that it doesn't become stuck to the surface. (An offset spatula or a bench scraper will allow you to do that easily).

Make cutout cookies by pressing a medium-size fluted cutter into the rolled dough. Place the cut-out pieces on the prepared baking sheets. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes so the dough becomes chilled. Repeat steps 2 and 3 with the second half of the dough. The dough can be re-rolled two or three times.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake one sheet at a time for 8 to 10 minutes. The cookies will remain pale but will feel dry to the touch. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool.

Meanwhile, make the spread: Combine the goat cheese, confectioners' sugar, milk and vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed to achieve a smooth, spreadable consistency. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.

For the glaze: Heat the balsamic vinegar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Once it starts to boil, reduce the heat to low. Stir in the granulated sugar; once it has dissolved, cook, stirring occasionally, for 45 to 50 minutes, until the liquid is syrupy and has reduced by about three-quarters. Cool to room temperature.

When ready to assemble, remove the figs from the port syrup solution and drain them, reserving the syrup if desired. For easy slicing, freeze the drained figs for about 10 minutes before cutting them into thin slices.

Use a round-edged knife to distribute goat cheese spread on top of each cookie. Arrange a few thin slices of fig on each one, then drizzle the glaze over them. Garnish with a few toasted pine nuts. You'll have glaze left over, and you might have a little extra goat cheese spread as well.

NOTE: Toast the 3 tablespoons of pine nuts in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat until golden brown and fragrant, shaking the pan to keep the nuts from scorching. Cool completely before using.

VARIATIONS: If rolling out the dough seems like a tedious step and/or if you don't have a rolling pin or cookie cutters, you could also shape the cookie dough into a log that’s about 1 1/2 inches in diameter, freeze it until it becomes chilled and hard, and cut the cookie log into thin slices. You can then place the sliced cookies onto a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper and bake them.

When fresh figs are in season, use those instead of dried; no need to macerate them.

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Recipe Source

Adapted from Vanessa E. Ochotorena, a pastry cook at Ripple in Cleveland Park, and the founder of

Tested by Becky Krystal.

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