I want to make shortbread as a gift, but as usual, I researched first and now am torn on methods. Some use rice flour, some swear by cornstarch, some say use cold butter, some recipes say to cream it first. Some use brown sugar and some, confectioners. I'm so confused. I want a really good recipe. They all look good but which method is the best?
Can anyone give me advice?
I remember one bit of shortbread info from my Scottish-born grandma, God rest her, who made it better than anyone else on earth. She always emphasized that the real secret of shortbread was in handling it with a very light touch. Having never made it myself, I can't give any further details, but something tells me that if you keep that advice in mind, you'll know just where in the process to apply it.
I got this recipe from a little cookbook I bought in Scotland in the 1970s. It's never failed me yet!
(from _Traditional Scottish Cookery_ by Margaret Fairlie)
1/2 cup flour, sifted
1/4 cup rice flour
1/4 cup castor [superfine] sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
Combine flours, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl. Work in the butter until dough has the consistency of shortcrust. Sprinkle board with rice flour. Turn dough onto board and knead until smooth. Divide into four portions and shape into small rounds. Place on greaseproof paper in a baking tin/ Prick with a fork. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes, until cakes begin to brown slightly. Allow to cool in tin.
I've made a "cornstarch" recipe from a British cook, and loved it. Rice flour is light as well.
Always use cold butter. Brown sugar will give it a more caramel flavor--it's up to you.(I'd like to do a brown butter shortbread!)
Lots of flexiblity here--they will all be good (providing the author 'has a clue'.
I've made shortbread with fresh rosemary--loved it--better for the epicurean--the "average Joe" doesn't really get it though...from my experience :).
Here is a link to one of my new favorite cookies--it is a shortbread with dried cranberries and pistachios. I've never been able to coerce my dough logs into squares, but they're just as pretty round.
I like to substitute cardamom and pepper for the cinnamon. I also often use cardamom and pepper in plain shortbread--delicious, but definetly not for everyone.