3/4 cup (170g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2/3 cup (134g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 Tablespoon (15ml) maraschino cherry juice
2 cups (240g) all-purpose flour (measured correctly)
16 maraschino cherries (drained and chopped)
24 Hershey's Kisses, unwrapped
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (optional)
1. Using a handheld or stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Switch mixer to medium speed and add the the sugar, vanilla and almond extracts.
2. With the mixer running on high, slowly drizzle in 1 Tablespoon of the cherry juice. Beat for 1 minute on high.
3. Turn the mixer off and pour the flour into the wet ingredients. Turn the mixer on low and slowly beat until a very soft dough is formed, then, with the mixer still running on low, add the chopped cherries. Beat just until the cherries are disbursed in the dough.
5. Press the dough down to compact it and tightly cover with plastic wrap to chill until firm, at least 4 hours (and up to 3 days). If the cookie dough is not sufficiently chilled, your cookies will spread all over the cookie sheet.
6. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats (silicone mats preferred to reduce spreading). Shape the cookie dough into balls. Mine were about 1 Tablespoon of dough per ball.
7. Bake for 11-12 minutes, or until very lightly browned on the edges. The cookies will puff up and spread slightly. Do not overbake.
8. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes then gently press a Hershey's Kiss into each cookie and quickly stick the baking sheet in the freezer or fridge so the warm cookie does not completely melt the chocolate. Let the Hershey's Kiss set on the cookies in the freezer/refrigerator for about 15 minutes.
9. Remove from the freezer/refrigerator, then drizzle with chocolate: melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave, in 20 second increments, stirring after each increment until melted. I used a plastic condiment bottle to drizzle the melted chocolate chocolate; a fork or spoon work too.
10. Make ahead tip: Store cookies covered at room temperature for 3 days or in the refrigerator for 6 days. Shortbread cookie dough may be frozen up to 2 months; baked cookies may be frozen up to 2-3 months.