Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Classic Scottish Shortbread

These were a hit at the officeI've tried several shortbread recipes over the years, but these seem to come out the most "classic."  Sure, you can vary them by adding, say, almond extract, or cinnamon to the batter, but the recipe that follows produces what I remember from my childhood.  Caution:  loads of butter ahead.  That slogan would make a good roadside sign, wouldn't it?

Time:  one hour, overall; 20-25 minutes baking at 350F; plus 5 to make the dough, and 30 to let it chill in the fridge

Quantity:  Approx. 3 dozen 1" x 2" cookies

  • 3.5 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 lb. of butter (3 sticks), room temperature, or nuked for 30 seconds to soften it
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar, plus about a teaspoon, reserved for sprinkling on top
  • 1 tsp. of vanilla
  • pinch of salt (or 1/4 tsp. if you use unsalted butter)
  1. Cream the sugar and butter together
  2. Mix in the vanilla and salt
  3. sift the flour, and mix it in, half a cup or so, at a time
  4. When it forms a stiff dough that sticks together pretty well, form it into a disk or rectangle, wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate it for half an hour (same thing as you'd do with pie crust dough)
  5. Roll it out until it's about 3/8" thick, on a floured board
  6. Cut it into whatever size/shape you want*
  7. Transfer the cookies onto an ungreased cookie sheet, jelly roll pan, or whatever baking sheet you have, spacing them about 1/4" apart (they don't expand a whole lot, but they do expand)
  8. Sprinkle a little extra granulated sugar over the top of the cookies
  9. Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes, until the edges looks set, and just barely start to develop some color
  10. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet, then remove them
* Alternately, transfer the entire rolled-out block of dough onto your baking sheet, then cut the cookies as they cool, about 2-3 minutes after they come out of the oven. I've done this with a pizza cutter, for basic rectangular cookies, and it works.  Call it cheating, if you want, but it's expedient.

Notes:  These can be cut into rounds, wedges, or whatever.  I don't believe in wasting cookie dough that has that much butter in it, so go ahead and bake those oddball edge pieces you may get.  You can prick the dough with a fork before you bake it, but if it's rolled out to a consistent thickness, it's not really necessary.  They will come out of the oven soft, but will harden as they cool.

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