Lemon-Cherry Candy Cane Cookies

I baked this shaped shortbread cookie for the first time this year, and it will be on my Christmas trays for a long time to come! The lemony dough and chewy dried cherries are an unexpectedly yummy combination, and a squiggle of pink frosting makes them stand out on a cookie platter. Makes about 2 ½ dozen.

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg
1 T. fresh lemon zest
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 ½ cups flour
¾ cup dried cherries, chopped

1 ½ cups powdered sugar
3 T. cherry or pomegranate juice
Few drops of liquid red food coloring

To make the dough, cream butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, lemon zest and vanilla, beating until blended. Gradually beat in flour, and then stir in the cherries. Wrap dough in wax paper or plastic wrap and chill at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350º. Cover cookie sheets with parchment paper. Divide dough into 30 equal sections and roll each section between your hands, into a rope about 5” long. Bend the tops to form candy canes and place the canes 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Bake cookies for 10 to 12 minutes or until just starting to brown. Cool on sheets for a couple minutes before transferring cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

For the frosting, whisk the powdered sugar, juice, and food coloring in a small bowl until smooth. Fill a pastry tube with frosting, and use a plain tip to form frosting stripes or make a zig-zag design. Allow to dry/set completely before storing between sheets of waxed paper. Freezes well.

Kitchen Hint: You can also spoon the frosting into a sandwich bag and nip off a tiny corner to decorate the cookies.

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