Food Art: A Shortbread Cookie Decorated with Sweet and Salty Treats

Being a true-loving baker, I enjoy baking a lot, a very lot and sweets especially appeal to me as I always sample many, everything from cakes, to cookies  to pies  to sweet noodle dishes and everything in-between. However, since I’m a visual artist too,  on occasion I can bring art into the kitchen, and that  adds a new dimension to the baking sphere.  This new idea has been fun to  haphazardly discover while I’m following a simple recipe. I  think this parallels what cake decorating is to passionate cake bakers!  Cookies too as well as cakes, explode with creative ideas flashing us all the time, especially with technology reaching us on our phones and other devices 24/7.  My idea for this  new recipe was sparked initially from my first cookbook which was published this year:  Nourished: A Memoir of Cooking and the Arts.  But, at the time I never realized the extent of the experiences and ideas that could spring  from such an easy  recipe!

This new idea came to me as I was about to bake. At  the grocery store earlier I had  purchased  several bags of mini candies for just this purpose, but at the time I had not realized the extent of the possibilities that lay before me, and it felt big as I was creating this dish.  So, if you are a cookie lover, and maybe candy too, as well as someone who likes a salty bite now and then, this may be the holiday cookie idea for you!

And too, remember that these are my ideas, but also, you can create your own spectacular art and a delicious and pretty cookie too, probably with just what’s in your refrigerator and pantry!  Let your mind wander and dream up something new!


3/4 cup softened brown sugar, packed

1 cup butter, softened – salted or unsalted

1/4 tsp. salt

3/4 tsp. vanilla

2 cups flour

1  1/4 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup Nutella, softened for 10-15 seconds in the microwave before adding it to the pan

2 cups, (about)  broken candy or mini candy pieces,  such as   Heath bar, Junior Mints, Reese’s miniature cups (white) cut in half, Twix, cashews, or other favorite nuts, raisinets, covered with dark chocolate, chocolate chips, small white and chocolate malted milk balls, 1/2  cup shredded sweet or unsweetened coconut flakes.  (Optional – 5-8 mini salted pretzels)  If you use the pretzels, I suggest cutting back on the candy.


1   In a stand mixer, add the butter and the brown sugar  mix 1-3 minutes on low, until fluffy and soft. (Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.) Add the flour gradually and at a slow speed, mixed with the salt, in about 6 portions. As you mix each portion blend the flour well, but not overly.  You do not want the flour to fly out.  Do this process by a hand held electric mixer if you do not have a stand mixer or even do it by hand.  Toward the end, add the vanilla.  The dough will be crumbly, almost like  sand or small pebbles.

2   Pat the dough,  flat and even in an 8 x 8 inch greased metal pan, pat it at the corners too. Bake until faintly brown, about 30-35 minutes. Remove from the oven. Wait about 3 minutes to let the crust cool  slightly. Turn the oven off. Spread the chocolate chips atop the crust, put the pan back in the oven for 1-2 minutes.  Remove the pan.  Wait 1-2 minutes than gently spread the very warm chips with the back of a spoon or spatula. A minute or two later, randomly, but gently  spread the Nutella all over the melted  chocolate layer.

3   For the candy/pretzels layer, do it while the chocolate layer is still warm and will easily grip the surface of the candy or pretzel. Overall, you want a nice thick layer of sweets. Ideally, this layer should reach about 1″ high, above the melted  Nutella and chocolate chips. Arrange the candy anyway you like.  Make it as even as possible. When done,  flatten this final layer ever so lightly with a wide spatula. If you wish, sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, from on high, over the whole pan, to add a salty bite.

4   Put the pan in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours to chill. Cut anyway you like, in 15 or 30 small pieces, or perhaps larger squares, remembering that this cookie/candy is very sweet.



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