Gifts from the Heart

Gifts from the Heart

If you’re going to spend Thanksgiving with friends or family, and you want to bring along a hostess gift that shows your appreciation without breaking the bank, these chocolate sea salt shortbread cookies are easy and impressive. You can even make the dough ahead of time and store in the freezer. Pop them in the oven, half-dip them in chocolate, and sprinkle with salt. They’re pretty, delicious, and they look like they take a lot more time to make than they actually do.


I’ve presented the cookies in two different ways, because everyone likes to have options. The Container Store had some clever ideas for baked goods containers, and I came home with things that were entirely different from the original plan.  For the traditional hostess gift, I used a clear, reusable container, and tied it with a bit of twine and some twigs from the garden.  Your host can see what you’ve brought as soon as you give it to them, and be instantly delighted.  If you’re going to a place where there will be children, or other people for whom you’d like to bring individual treats, I used clear plastic cylinders that hold six small cookies each, and decorated them with fall leaves tied on with the aforementioned twine.


These cookies keep for several days, and whether you’re providing an additional sweet for your hostess to serve, or making little gifts, your generosity of spirit will be remembered and appreciated.

Another thoughtful hostess gift is a copy of “Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle,” by Stephen Dunning and others, a poetry anthology that I read as a young girl and have never forgotten.

Here’s a link to the book, available on

Chocolate Sea Salt Shortbread Cookies

Prep time: 45 minutes, plus thirty minutes to allow the dough to chill in the refrigerator, and one hour to allow the chocolate to dry on the cookie.

Serves: 2-4 dozen cookies, depending upon the size of your cookie cutter


  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¾ pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla or the seeds of ½ of a vanilla bean
  • 3 ½ cups flour
  • ¼ teaspoon coarse salt, plus salt for sprinkling on chocolate
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips or chocolate bar, finely chopped

Chocolate Sea Salt Shortbread Cookies


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream butter and sugar in an electric mixer until they are well combined.
  3. Add salt, vanilla,  and flour, a half cup at a time until the ingredients are blended.
  4. Dough will be crumbly.
  5. Turn dough out of mixing bowl on to a piece of floured plastic wrap and form into a disk.
  6. Wrap disk in plastic and refrigerate dough for at least thirty minutes.
    Chocolate Sea Salt Shortbread Cookies
  7. On a floured surface, roll out dough to a quarter-inch thickness and cut out with cookie cutters of your preference.
  8.   I made two sizes: 1/1/2 inches and 2 inches, and it took 9 minutes for the smaller cookies, and 11 minutes for the larger ones to bake.
  9. Remove from oven before cookies begin to brown at the edges.
    Chocolate Sea Salt Shortbread Cookies
  10. While cookies are cooling, melt chocolate in a double boiler over low heat.
  11. If you don’t have a double boiler, use a large frying pan with simmering water in it, and set a heatproof bowl with the chocolate into the water, so that the chocolate melts without scorching.
  12. Stir.
    Chocolate Sea Salt Shortbread Cookies
  13. When the chocolate is hot and melted, and the cookies are cool, dip half the cookie into the chocolate and place cookies on a cooling rack with some waxpaper underneath to catch the excess chocolate.
  14. Allow cookies to sit one hour until chocolate is completely firm.
  15. Note: if you put the cookies into the fridge to harden faster, they will lose their shiny chocolate-y appearance, which can be a bit disappointing – though it won’t affect the taste.
    Chocolate Sea Salt Shortbread Cookies
  16. When chocolate is nearly firm, sprinkle a few crystals of sea salt on to the chocolate-covered side of the cookies.
  17. Cookies should keep for three to five days.

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