My mom mentioned that this year for Christmas she might make her shortbread. She used to make it every Christmas, but hasn’t in a long time. It sorta put a bee in my bonnet (or a bug up my ass, if we’re being blunt) to try making it myself. I’ve never made it before, but I love it, so I decided to try it myself.
Since there is a literal blizzard in New York, packing a punch with almost 2 feet of snow, and I was snowed in, I figured it was the perfect time to make some shortbread for Christmas. Don’t get me started on how much I hate the snow… just let me talk about the cookies.
Shortbread originated in Scotland, and it’s referred to as “the jewel in the crown” of Scottish baking. Walkers Shortbread is one of the largest food exporter in Scotland, and you can buy their shortbread in many gourmet stores all over the world. Shortbread is so named because:
…of its crumbly texture (from an old meaning of the word short). The cause of this texture is its high fat content, provided by the butter. The short or crumbly texture is a result of the fact that the fat inhibits the formation of long protein (gluten) strands. The related word “shortening” refers to any fat that may be added to produce a short (crumbly) texture.
Shortbread is notoriously delicate, because of that crumbly texture, and sometimes can be hard to work with. In my recipe, I use both confectioner’s sugar (for the light and smooth texture) and granulated sugar (to help keep them together and make them less “crumbly”). I chose to dip them in a chocolate “glaze” (half a bag of Nestle chocolate chunks and two teaspoons shortening, microwaved until melted, stopping to stir every minute) but shortbread is incredibly versatile. You can top them with turbinado sugar, confectioner’s sugar, granulated sugar… or use a chocolate like I did, or maybe even a milk chocolate and then a swirl of white chocolate on top of that. You can use chocolate chips in the dough, or add some instant espresso powder to the mix and make them coffee-flavored. You can even dip them in chocolate and use some sprinkles, if you want. And it goes without saying, the dough can be made in any shape you like, as well. You can even roll it out square, and just cut out rectangles/squares/triangles if you don’t have cookie cutters.
The main thing I love about shortbread? Butter. All that lovely butter. Mmm…
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- ¼ cup powdered (confectioners or icing) sugar
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- In a separate bowl whisk the flour with the salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), cream the butter until smooth (about 1 minute). Add the sugar and beat until smooth (about 2 minutes). Beat in the vanilla extract. Gently stir in the flour mixture just until incorporated. Flatten the dough into a disk shape, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill the dough for at least an hour.
- Preheat oven to 350° degrees F with the rack in the middle of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough to ¼ inch thick. Cut into rounds or whatever shapes you wish using lightly floured cookie cutter. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheet and place in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. This will firm up the dough so the cookies will maintain their shape when baked. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes, or until cookies are lightly brown. Cool on rack. Shortbread with keep in an airtight container for about a week or frozen for several months. This recipe makes about 20 shortbread cookies.
Okay so, mine had to cook for 20 minutes, but my oven is usually a bit off anyway. I also got more than 20, but I suppose that really depends on the size/shape you choose to make them in.
A word of warning: definitely let them cool thoroughly before glazing/dipping if you’re dipping them in chocolate. Otherwise, they will break. If you’re sprinkling them with sugar, do so before putting them into the oven.
This recipe is crazy good. These cookies are crazy good. CRAZY. And you have to be careful, because you can easily eat 6 of them without even realizing it, and they are practically half butter.