different types of shortbread?
i would like to make shortbread at home. i buy the Walker's shortbread and prefer that thick, dense, grittier bar form to the thin shortbreads i've had, or the ones that collapse almost instantly when you take a bite. what would be the differences in recipes that would yield these results?
is the Walker's representative of traditional scottish shortbread? i've searched for some recipes on this site and wasn't sure what the results would be like, and would appreciate some help. thanks!
The difference in sandy-ness (a crumbly shortbread is more sandy, as it were) seems to arise from how much you handle or compress the dough - the more you do, the less sandy it remains. A very sandy shortbread would be difficult to ship or package. For my church choir bake sale, I make a jelly roll tray of each type, and both sell out.
re: Karl S
The secret ingredient for "sandy" shortbread is to substitute rice flour for some of the wheat flour. Not much, or it won't hold together. The recipe mentioned below is one of these. This was something I stumbled across when I was working on duplicating a shortbread crust for some lilikoi pie I'd had on Kauai (which I'm STILL working on, 20+ years later!).
Sandy vs. dense can also be a matter of cornstarch...sandy shortbread recipes frequently call for some cornstarch along with the butter, sugar, and flour. My standby shortbread is more of a ratio than a recipe--
1 stick softened butter (salted or unsalted)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar (powdered, superfine, or even light brown)
vanilla or almond flavoring
Stir sugar into softened butter; if using brown sugar, beat until sugar begins to dissolve. Stir in vanilla or almond, then stir in flour. Press/pat firmly into a thick round and score lightly into wedges. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown around the edges (brown sugar will yield a darker shortbread, of course). You can add chopped nuts or mini chips or grated chocolate to the dough if you like, or ice it after baking. Let it cool slightly before cutting along the scored lines.
My aunt gave me this recipe that originated from her Scottish housekeeper, 50-60 years ago:
3 2/3 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 lb unsalted butter
dash of vanilla if desired
Preheat oven to 275 deg.
Cream butter & sugar.
Add egg & beat well.
Add flour 1/2 cup at a time until well blended.
Add vanilla if desired.
Dough will be very dense.
Divide in 2 parts & roll each into a circle, about 1/4-1/2" thick.
Score into sections (about 1/2 way thru) & prick a design into the sections.
Bake on a cookie sheet until golden brown, 50-60 minutes.
I have also used the dough for cookies, they take less time to bake; about 30 minutes will do.
The more you handle the dough after cutting in the butter, the less sandy the texture will be. This happens because of the temperature of your hands! Also, with handling, the butter works further into the flour, which then gives the shortbread a more cakelike consistency.
Walker's Shortbread is 31% butter, 18% sugar, and just over 50% flour, with a little added salt. The closest I have come to Walker's shortbread is the following recipe:
3 c flour; 5/8 c sugar; 1/2 tsp salt, 2 sticks butter (at room temperature)
Thoroughly mix dry ingredients. using two forks, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. This will take some time, so be patient.
GENTLY, with as little handling as possible, form dough into round ball. Refrigerate this for about 30 minutes, to re-chill the butter. Pat or roll gently onto a baking sheet until you have a flat round or rectangular "cookie," about 1/4 inch thick. Score this into pieces about 1x2 inches, but do not cut all the way through. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until edges of shortbread are browning, but not too dark. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on baking sheet. Cut along scored lines into individual cookies. ENJOY!
NOTE: Store the shortbread at room temperature, in a well-sealed tin or bowl. Homemade shortbread will last quite a while, if properly stored. I occasionally buy small holiday tins at Christmastime, and package the shortbread for gifts. If you do this, make SURE to separate the cookies with paper, and don't stack the pieces over three high.
I made your recipe the other day, warpony. Very nice. Simple, quick, proportions fairly close to the original tradition of 3 flour - 2 butter - 1 sugar, and it worked.
In case anyone is wondering, I tried baking the cookies in a springerle type of mold - a modern nonstick pan, I confess - and it worked quite well. I very lightly oiled and floured the pan first.
Two more notes regarding baking shortbread and this recipe - after pressing the dough into the springerle pan, I pricked it all over with a fork. Also - when mixing the dough - after cutting in the butter, I had to add a few tablespoons of water to get it to clump together sufficiently. This is okay! Just a few T water, mix, add a few T more if needed.
I recent years I have made my shortbread with very soft butter, whipped with the sugar. Flour (and salt) stirred in at the end. The mixture is spread on a pan, scored, and frozen for a bit. Then I cut into individual pieces and freeze them on the baking sheet. When hard, the sheet is put into the preheated oven. The texture of this shortbread is like velvet and I don't mess with cutting in and dealing with crumbly dough or cutting the hot product. The sides swell out just a little bit, but they are still very attractive. I made some yesterday with browned butter and ground pecans. The browned butter makes shortbread more sandy, but it is amazingly delicious.
Speaking of different kinds of shortbread, has anyone ever tried the Rosemary Shortbread from epicurious? (link below) I have somewhat of an entire BUSH of fresh rosemary growing in the garden and am trying to think of unusual ways to use it up.