It’s that time of year, when the shops play jingles till your head’s full of them, and you can’t quite help but be excited by the prospect of gifts – not just the receiving, but also the giving – (my favourite part).

 Some of those gifts will be edible, and these are the best type – ones made by hand, at home – and given with an open heart. I spent the afternoon with friends yesterday helping to create and decorate these gifts – gingerbread men and shortbread hearts – and we had a tea-party in the backyard while we were at it.

So today, I was inspired, and decided to make some of my own. This time gingerbread stars and shortbread crescents. Actually, I don’t have a tried-and-true shortbread recipe – I’m mostly making cakes… but this one caught my eye, on the side of a plain flour packet, of all places!

Made with a significant proportion of ground pistachio nuts, I’m sure this recipe would be easily adaptable to accommodate those with a gluten allergy. In addition, you can substitute other nuts, depending on your preference – I went with pistachio, which although is a little labour-intensive (I spent the best part of half an hour shelling them while watching a mid-day movie), are worth the effort when you see the green pop against the pale cookie.

I’ve always loved the Greek shortbread that is doused in powdered icing sugar and showers sugar and crumbs all over your shirt… so I was thrilled to find something similar (albeit a little more robust) in these little numbers.

Pistachio & Lemon Shortbread
Makes 30+

250g butter, softened
¾ cup icing sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind
1 egg
¾ cup ground pistachios, plus extra 2 tablespoons for sprinkling
2 ½ cups plain flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder 

Lemon icing

1 cup pure icing sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons water
Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan forced. Beat butter, sugar and lemon rind until light and creamy. Beat in egg. Fold in pistachios, flour and baking powder until a soft dough forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, and cool in fridge for at least 30 minutes. 
Shape tablespoons of mixture into small logs and bend gently to form a crescent. Place on baking paper-lined trays and bake for 13-15 minutes, or until firm and pale golden. Remove and cool. 
For lemon icing: Combine icing ingredients in a bowl and mix to form a runny icing. Drizzle over cold biscuits and sprinkle with extra pistachios. Allow icing to set.

Tip: You can substitute the pistachios for blanched almonds or walnuts.

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