These little slice-and-bake gems are a riff on shortbread cookies – lovely, delicate, yet crunchy, studded with chewy apricot bits. They are a wonderful addition to your holiday cookie platter, or all year round as a teatime treat.
The original Italian version, called Arlecchini – or little harlequins (also sometimes called Tutti Frutti Cookies) use bright red and green candied cherries, but all that unnatural colouring gives me the shivers. So, I substituted chopped dried apricots – not as bright and flashy, but still cheerful looking with the glowing golden apricot bits. Think of them as the quieter, more refined younger brother of the clown-like harlequin or jester.
I omitted the egg, so they have a smoother and crisper texture that melts in your mouth like shortbread cookies. I also snuck in rum to moisten the dough, instead of water – going on the principle of vodka helping to tenderize pie crust, and thinking the slight bit of alcohol will keep the log of dough from freezing as solidly.
The beauty of this cookie recipe (besides its obvious good looks!) is that the dough can be quickly thrown together, then tucked into the freezer to bake later – when you need a batch of biscuits for guests, or whenever the cookie craving strikes.
Kitchen Frau Notes: *Sweet rice flour is also known as glutinous rice flour, although it doesn’t contain any gluten. The term refers to the sticky nature of the rice. It also sometimes goes by the name of ‘mochiko’, if you buy it in an Asian grocery store. It works well in baking and to thicken sauces.
If using gluten-free flours, there is no need to use any added gums. The freezing process seems to help the flours bind, and they hold together beautifully.
Vegan: Since this recipe uses no eggs, it’s easy to make it vegan – just be sure to use a vegan margarine or butter substitute. I made several batches like that and they turned out just as delicious – the texture was a little crisper and not quite as ‘short’ or melt-in-your-mouth as shortbread, but yummy all the same.
(Eggless) Apricot Harlequin Cookies
adapted from Cakes in the City
- ½ cup (115gms) soft, salted butter (or vegan butter substitute)
- 1 and 1/3 cups (190gms) all purpose flour — or 1/3 cup (45gms) brown rice or sorghum flour + 1/3 cup (45gms) white rice flour + 1/3 cup (55gms) sweet rice flour* + 1/3 cup (50gms) cornstarch
- 2/3 cup (80gms) icing sugar (also known as confectioner’s sugar or powdered sugar)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 to 2 tablespoons rum (or water)
- ½ cup (100gms) soft dried apricots
In the bowl of a mixer, beat the butter until soft and fluffy. Add the flour (or gluten-free flours), icing sugar, and vanilla. Mix until it is all moistened and crumbly.
Add 1 tablespoon of the rum or vodka and beat until it comes together in a soft ball that pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Add the second tablespoon, a bit at a time, if you need it. If you add a bit too much rum, add back in one teaspoon of flour or rice flour at a time until the dough is soft, but not sticky anymore.
Chop the apricots coarsely.
Roll the dough into a ball, and place it onto a large piece of wax paper. Shape it into a log about 10 inches/25 cm long.
Wrap the log up in the wax paper, and roll the wrapped log on the counter lightly to make a smooth cylinder. If the paper is crinkled, unwrap, smooth it out and wrap up the log again – this will keep the edges smooth so the cookies are even. Place in the freezer and freeze for 1 hour.
Remove from the freezer and slice into 1/3 inch (8mm) slices. Place on greased or parchment paper-lined cookie sheets. If any edges of the cookies come loose, press them gently back into place.
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