Just in Case You Aren’t Sick of Cookies Yet: Shortbread!

I made a buttload of shortbread this holiday season for people and found a basic recipe that I like to use and transform into a ton of different shapes and funky styles. The original recipe is pretty easy to make, light and fluffy, but super buttery and yummy for all times of the year. A few tweaks here and there to change or add flavours (and baking time, subsequently) is all it takes to bring the recipe from “oh boy, another tin of shortbread…” to “holy crap, that’s a cookie?! Yeehaw!”

All it really takes is a few fun ideas and sweet ingredients to get the dough rolling. My favorite plan for this recipe, after chocolate-covered (which always wins) is to send it on a trip to somewhere sunny and tropical, which you will see below.

Heavenly Shortbread (from Allrecipes)
Makes about 3 dozen small cookies or an 11″ x 15″ pan that you can cut into any size or shape you want!

2 cups unsalted butter (softened, cut into squares)

1 cup white sugar

4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp cornstarch

Note: Above is the original recipe. I always add the seeds of a vanilla pod, or you can do a teaspoon of vanilla extract, or sub vanilla sugar for an extra sweet scent. You will also need stuff to decorate cookies. Seriously, anything you want. What I did to summer-ify this recipe (for the employer who loves Hawaii), was add a tablespoon each of lemon zest and shredded coconut plus some chocolate to half of the recipe (and kept the rest for “regular” cookies).

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees fahrenheit. And if you left the butter out but your home is cold, make friendly with the portable heater.

Cream the butter for a couple of minutes with a mixer. Whip it until it comes up light-coloured and fluffy, forming peaks. You'll know when it's easily shape-able and looks cool like Guy Fieri's hair.
Cream the butter with an electric mixer for a few minutes until it’s light-coloured and easily forms peaks. You’ll know it’s whipped enough when it looks cool like Guy Fieri’s hair.

Vanilla pods are something I saw on TV as a kid and salivated over because they look so fab and taste so lovely. Slit one from head to toe, and use the tip of your knife to scrape the seeds out.

Throw the sugar and vanilla seeds into the butter. To get the seeds off your fingers and not let them go to waste, rub a little sugar between them. Whip again until fully blended.

Shift the flour and cornstarch together.

Add the flour in 3 batches, carefully and on low speed, until the ingredients are fully blended and form coarse crumbs that stick together if you press them.

At this point I set aside about half of the dough crumbs and added the lemon zest, coconut, and a couple of grinds of dark chocolate and sugar crystals from a dessert shaker of mine. Just 'cause.

Roll it into balls and flatten them on a cookie sheet, or roll them out and cut out shapes, or do as I did, which is press it with my fingers into a parchment-lined pan. The whole recipe calls for 30 minutes of oven time, and I found that this 9" pan did well at about 15 minutes. VERY IMPORTANT: Let this thing cool before moving it anywhere or lifting it out!

If you choose to do flattened cookies or cut-outs, here's a tip. Get enough parchment or wax paper to cover the pan twice...

Pile on a heap of the crumbley dough...

Roll it out...if you don't have a pin, use a tall mug or a wine bottle. Do what you have to! If it's giving you trouble and falling apart, throw it back in the bowl and carefully knead it until it's pretty workable, then throw it back between the paper and flatten it. Some shortbread aficionados must be shaking their heads, but I made some bloody good cookies like this.

And cut out however you want! Pull away scraps and add them back into the rest because you can roll them out later for the next batch, or press them into another pan.

Either bake straight away (about 12 minutes for small cookies, depending on your oven. Be vigilant!), or make the kind that need to be decorated and then baked. What you see here are both types: What I call "Fabulous Christmas Cutouts", where the trees are cut out of rounds and the holes are filled with pink sugar that then sticks together to make a sheet similar to candy glass, and other cutout/flattened shapes that were baked, drizzled with melted dark chocolate, and had stuff chucked on top so that it would stick after cooling. Heart cutouts would also be fun for Valentine's Day!

Crunched-up candy canes are a good holiday option. Just put them in a bag, hit it with a pan or hammer, and be careful of the humidity in the air, which could make them sticky and get clumpy.

Sprinkles, nuts, candies, dried fruit, icing, anything you want. Do it up!

There are a lot of fun variations that you can do with these. There was the summer version for Rhonda, round cookies that were coated in dark chocolate and topped with white chocolate buttons for a vinyl collecting friend, and all of the ones you see above for my coworkers and Christmas hosts. I hope that these cookies spread joy wherever you bring them!

Eat well!


This entry was posted in Dessert!!!, Holiday, Vegetarian and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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