Monday, February 13, 2012
I recently discovered shortbread (I know, what rock have I been living under?) and only because I was looking for prepared cookies with minimal ingredients and none of the "bad" stuff like high-fructose corn syrup, soybean oil, emulsifiers, etc. I am always intrigued at how they can taste so good. And their texture is amazing - they're soft without being too soft and chewy like a traditional cookie, but they also have a slight snap and, yet, aren't crispy. To satisfy my fix, I buy Walker's Shortbread, but they're kind of expensive. While they're worth the price, I knew that I could make some at home for much cheaper.
These shortbread cookies have all of 3 ingredients: flour, sugar, and butter. You almost can't go wrong with these. That said, the first time I attempted shortbread cookies, they tasted really good, but they spread all over the baking sheet. I was still very much a beginner baker at the time and thought that the problem was with the recipe or that the simplicity of the recipe belied some serious skills needed. Turns out, the dough just needed to be chilled. Lesson learned.
I originally wanted to dress them up by dipping the ends in white chocolate and then covering that with some chopped pistachios, but the results were rather disappointing and boring. All the individual flavors were lost. So, word to the wise, these are best enjoyed plain.
Barely adapted from Better Homes & Gardens, 75th Anniversary Ed.
I used regular grocery store butter, but I bet that some fancy butter would really shine in this recipe.
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulate sugar
1/2 cup butter, cold*
Combine flour and sugar in a bowl or food processor. If mixing by hand, cut in butter using a pastry blender or two forks. If using a food processor, add the butter and pulse. Whatever method you use, combine ingredients until mixture resembles fine crumbs and starts to stick together a bit. Form the mixture into a ball and knead until smooth.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into an 8x6-inch rectangle (Get out that ruler to be completely accurate!) that is about 1/2-inch thick. Using a knife or dough scraper, cut the dough into 24 2x1-inch strips. Place 1 inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet. If desired, make the "design" on the cookies by gently pressing the flat end of a wooden skewer or a fork into the dough, taking care not to press all the way through the dough.
If your kitchen or dough is particularly warm, a short 20-30 min chill in the fridge or freezer is super helpful and will make sure that your cookies retain their shape. (I like to put my dough in the fridge, then turn on the oven to preheat. When the oven is ready, I'll pop the baking sheets straight from the fridge into the oven.)
Preheat oven to 325F. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cookies turn a very light brown.
Notes: When the type of butter isn't specified, I usually use a mix of salted and unsalted.