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Shortbread tastes good no matter what the shape

Associated Press

Given a good basic dough to work with, fancy cookie cutters can produce mouthwatering cookies tailor-made for any special occasion.

What comes to mind right now is an easy shamrock shape dusted with green sugar sprinkles for St. Patrick's Day, to catch the spirit of the Irish celebration.

After that, there will be Easter: Bring out your bunny and chick cutters or think of egg shapes, iced with pastel pink and yellow. Stars are fun for Fourth of July, leaves and pumpkins in the fall.

If you don't have fancy cookie cutters, use regular round cutters and do a little simple artwork with a pointed knife, if you wish. Remember: The almond shortbread is going to taste fine whatever the shape of the cookies.

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Almond shortbread shamrock cookies

(Preparation 20 minutes to mix, 1 hour to chill, 12 to 14 minutes to bake each tray)

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature

7-ounce package almond paste, grated

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups flour

2 tablespoons milk (optional)

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Green sugar sprinkles (optional)

With an electric mixer, beat butter on high for 3 minutes or until very soft and light in color. Add grated almond paste and sugar. Mix on low speed until combined. Turn mixer to high and beat a full 5 minutes or more, until almost white-colored and fluffy. Mix in vanilla.

Gently stir flour into mixture until just combined. Spoon half of dough onto a 15-inch-long piece of wax paper. With hands, press dough out to a 1/4-inch thickness. Top with wax paper. Lightly smooth top with rolling pin. Keeping wax paper in place, lay dough on cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining half of dough and chill for 1 hour to firm. Preheat oven to 325 F. Line cookie sheets with parchment or foil.

Work with one piece of dough at a time, keeping other half refrigerated. Cut out cookie shapes and place on cookie sheets 2 inches apart, dipping cutters in flour if sticking. Repeat until all dough is used. Keep unbaked cookies refrigerated until ready to bake.

Bake plain or brush tops with milk and sprinkle with green sugar. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until cookies are firm and bottoms are very light golden. Cool on wire racks. Makes 46 2 1/2-inch cookies.

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