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Shortbread the easy way

buttertart Dec 20, 2006 05:40 PM

If anyone is up for yet another cookie recipe to complete their baking...
My sainted mother (from southwestern Ontario) got this recipe from a Scottish lady in the early 50's - it is infinitely expandable or divisible and works like a charm.
1 part sugar to 2 parts (salted) softened butter to 4 parts flour
("Parts" are dry cup measures - Mom's batch was 1 cup sugar to 2 cups butter - 1 lb - to 4 cups flour. I make half that, for a yield of 4 doz cookies).
Cn be mixed in a bowl with your hands or a wooden spoon (my Mom's way) or in a food processor (my way, just chuck everything in together, and let it rip until a dough is formed).
Form into desired cookie shapes (I make 3/4 in balls and flatten them to 1/4 inch thick) and bake on ungreased or parchment-lined cookie sheets at 325 deg F until just barely golden on the bottom and barely colored on top (15 mins appx for the ones I make).
Dough can be held overnight in fridge unbaked.
Can sub cornstarch or rice flour for 1/4 of the flour but this cookie is very short even with US all-purpose flour.
Simple and perfect.
Thanks, Mom!

  1. revsharkie Dec 22, 2006 09:37 PM

    Didn't know there was a "hard way" for shortbread! It's about the simplest cookie there is.

    I use the recipe from the late-1970s Betty Crocker cookbook I have, but with the addition of a teaspoon of vanilla. That brings the number of ingredients to four. It's 1 1/2 c. butter, 1/2 c. sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla, then 4 c. of flour (just mix in enough to be able to handle the dough and still be soft, even if it doesn't take all of it).

    We have a big cookie sale at our church the first Saturday in December each year. This year, a week after knee surgery, I decided to make an abundance of little shortbread cookies for the sale. I had already doubled the batch, then lost my head and put in twice the amount of sugar I should have put in. I didn't realize what I'd done till I was mixing the butter & sugar and couldn't figure out why it was not mixing together like it normally does. When I realized it, there was nothing to do but go get more butter and double the recipe again. Turns out that amount of shortbread dough exceeds my mixer bowl's capacity, so I put it in a mixing bowl to mix the rest of the flour in by hand--but there was too much for even my biggest mixing bowl. I ended up kneading the last bit of flour in with a bench scraper on the counter. What a mess. I ended up only using like 2/3 of the dough and made around 500 of those little cookies. The rest of the dough is in the freezer to see if it can be thawed and used successfully.

    1. Becca Porter Dec 22, 2006 05:15 PM

      In MS Baking Handbook, there is a recipe for wheatmeal shortbread. It is incredible! Every bit as delicious as the original, if not more so.

      1. a
        alicat Dec 21, 2006 07:15 PM

        I make the Grandma's shortbread recipe from the back of the Canada Corn Starch box, myself, and it's very similar to the recipe buttertart posted, except it obviously uses some cornstarch. I like the melt-away texture of those, but if I want the sandy, press-into-pan-and-cut shortbread, I use all AP flour. Just depends what kind of cookie you like. Shortbreads are the ultimate cookie for me - it's not Christmas without them. I just wish I could get better butter. Damn Canadian dairy subsidies.

        2 Replies
        1. re: alicat
          paulj Dec 21, 2006 07:26 PM

          Walkers used to make a whole grain shortbread. It reminded me of toasted wheatgerm held together with butter and sugar. I wonder if I could approximate it at home.

          1. re: paulj
            pjc210 Mar 12, 2007 02:54 PM

            Is this it? http://www.walkersus.com/products/oat...

        2. b
          browniebaker Dec 20, 2006 07:50 PM

          The recipe you posted is exactly the one I use! I agree it's simply the best shortbread. I always make it for Xmas gifts, and everyone loves them.

          I do substitute rice flour for 1/4 of the flour for that deliciously sandy-crisp texture.

          One friend grabbed the gift of shortbread I made for her and said, "Ooh, it's your labor of love!" I said, "Yes, there is love in it."

          1 Reply
          1. re: browniebaker
            buttertart Dec 21, 2006 06:20 PM

            Thanks, as far as I'm concerned this is it - (also make a Marion Cunningham recipe, from the Baking Book - "Helen Gustafson's shortbread" - 1 1/4 c ap flour, 1/4 c rice flour, 1/4 c sugar, 1 stick butter, process to dough, press in pan - I use 8x8 - to bake, 350 deg F for + - 25 mins, take out halfway through and dock with a wooden skewer for looks if nothing else) - but my Mom's recipe is the ne plus ultra. Brought it in to work (in NJ) today, along with currant sugar cookies, butter tart squares - put chocolate chips in those, my mother would have been revolted, chocolate is Not for Christmas, plus a light and a dark fruitcake and some Canadian cheddar which we always ate with fruitcake...20 people in the office, by 10:30 everything was gone.
            Shortbread (as I expected) was the last to go - guess it doesn't look flashy enough.
            Happy holidays!

          2. r
            Rhee Dec 20, 2006 06:02 PM

            Our local newspaper published the results of a butter comparison including a "shortbread bake-athon". They found the best tasting butter did not always make the best tasting shortbread. Here is the article:


            1. c
              C70 Dec 20, 2006 06:00 PM

              using the finest sugar helps too. my grandma used what she called "fruit sugar".

              1. Mickey Blue Dec 20, 2006 05:53 PM

                I'm not sure of Buttertarts method's, but I've come to realize the quality of butter makes a *world of difference*! A good quality, high butterfat butter does wonders for shortbread.

                1. m
                  Mila Dec 20, 2006 05:46 PM

                  Okay, please help buttertart.

                  My roommate just did a taste off between my shortbread and our Scottish friends shortbread, and hers won by a mile. It was melt in your mouth, slightly sandy and utterly delicious.

                  So I have questions.

                  Is it a very soft dough?
                  Is it better to sub the cornstarch for the melt in the mouth quality?
                  Surely there is some guarded Scottish secret you'd like to tell.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Mila
                    Candy Dec 20, 2006 07:01 PM

                    It is rice flour that makes the sandy difference and the best butter you can find. I did the Greenspan recipe for her brown sugar pecan shortbread and she called for cornstarch. The texture was nowhere near what I get when I sub 1/4 of the AP flour with white rice flour.

                    1. re: Candy
                      Mila Dec 22, 2006 04:12 PM

                      Thanks Candy (you always come through) and everyone. I shall try again.

                      Happy Holidays !

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