Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with silicone baking mats or aluminum foil to prevent cookies from sticking.
Pour 1/2 cup granulated sugar into a small bowl; set aside.
Cut candied cherries in half so you have enough for 3 dozen cookies; set aside.
In a large bowl, mix butter until creamy. Either use your electric mixer or beat by hand. Gradually add 2/3 cup sugar; beating until light and fluffy.
Stir in almond extract. Gradually add flour to mixture, beating well after each addition.
Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Next roll the balls into sugar.
Place 1-inch apart on baking sheet. Use your thumb to make indentation into center of each cookie ball. Edges may slightly crack, you can leave as is or push the edges back together. Press the candied cherry half into the indentation.
Bake cookies for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool on the baking sheet before moving cookies to wire rack to completely cool. Cookies may crumble if you move while still hot.
* Make sure to use candied cherries which are meant for baking and not maraschino cherries.
** You must use butter in this recipe. The secret of a great shortbread cookie is butter or it just won’t taste like shortbread!
Cherry Gem Cookies Recipe: https://whatscookingamerica.net/Cookie/CherryGem-Cookies.htm