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Shortbread question

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I am looking for the penultimate shortbread cookie recipe, and I am in a quandry due to two recipes I've found to be useful. I've been using the Barefoot Contessa recipe (butter, flour, sugar, salt, vanilla) to rave reviews, but I find that you have to roll it out and cut the shapes, then refrigerate them before baking or they spread too much. Also, the texture is somewhat large-pored and crunches sharply when you bite down. Just made the Mark Bittman recipe from the Sunday NYTimes, which specifies sugar, flour, salt, butter, but the addition of an egg yolk and cornstarch. The baked result was, to me, more of a "sand" cookie than a shortbread, but I can see how the cornstarch would lighten the texture and make the crunch gentler. Am almost ashamed to admit that Lorna Doones are my Proustian madeleine for shortbread, but those Scottish ones in the Tartan tins are rapidly becoming my replacement cookie when the urge strikes. That said, I still want a roll of unbaked shortbread to be there in the freezer for slicing and baking when necessary. Any Chowhounds out there have a foolproof shortbread recipe they depend on and are willing to share?

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  1. I've always used just butter, flour and conf sugar.
    1/2 lb butter
    1/2 cup conf sugar
    2 cups flour
    cream butter
    add and cream sugar
    sift flour 3 times and gradually ad creaming after each addition.
    chill, roll out and cut (1/3 to 1/2 " thick)
    Bake 350 for 5 mion then 300 for 20-30.
    Don't let them get real brown

    1. As a shortbread junkie, I have many interesting versions of the cookie, but this is my go-to basic recipe, which lets you either pat or roll the dough.

      SCOTTISH SHORTBREAD

      1 c butter, rm. temp.
      3/4 c sugar
      1/2 c cake flour, sifted
      2 1/2 c all- purpose flour, sifted

      Cream the butter with sugar. Mix in the flours. Pat or roll about 1/4" thick onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Prick all over with a fork. Score into squares or diamonds. Bake 30-40 minutes at 350. Remove from oven and cut through entirely. Remove onto wire racks to let cool completely. Store in airtight container.

      1. When it comes to shortbread, the simpler the better, IMO. My perfect shortbread is just butter, flour (AP) and sugar, rolled out after mixing and cut into shapes. The recipe contains 3/4 cup butter, 1/4 cup sugar, and 2 cups flour. The result isn't like Lorna Doone (which while tasty, isn't really like trad. shortbread, despite the package label), but a crisp, not hard, shortbread cookie.

        For any shortbread recipe there is no reason why you couldn't roll it into a log and store in the refrigerator or freezer, to cut into slices at your convenience. Just ignore the rolling out instructions and instead roll into a cylinder using wax paper or parchment, then wrap tightly in plastic wrap for storage. Wrap in two layers of plastic wrap if the cookie dough will be frozen.

        10 Replies
        1. re: janniecooks

          I just have to tell you, janniecooks, that I second your shortbread recipe enthusiastically. I _hated_ shortbread until I had cookies made with this recipe.
          It had never occurred to me that I could roll the dough into a cylinder and freeze it. Thanks for the great idea!

          1. re: vjb

            Vjb can you post the instructions please? Thanks

            1. re: smfan

              Here's my recipe; I got it from a woman who emigrated from the UK some years ago. Once I tasted her shortbread I wanted no other (though Will Owen has a great point about subbing in some rice flour - it does add a nice texture and isn't entirely non-traditional).

              Scotch Shortbread
              Simple but excellent.

              ¾ cup butter
              ¼ cup sugar
              2 cups regular flour (don’t use self-rising flour)

              1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
              2. Cream butter and sugar. Mix in flour. Mixture will seem very dry. Add a little more butter if necessary.
              3. Roll dough about ½ inch thick on lightly floured surface.
              4. Cut dough into shapes and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Poke holes into dough using a fork. Sprinkle with sugar.
              5. Place cookie sheet on middle shelf of oven and back for about ½ hour. Watch cookies carefully. If the first batch is much darker on the bottom then the oven was too hot. You can turn the oven down to 275 degrees if necessary.

              1. re: janniecooks

                Thanks Jannie,

              2. re: smfan

                Janniecooks has posted the instructions, I see.

                In the instructions I received (and I'm darned if I can recall whom I got the recipe from), the temperature I was given is 350 degrees Farenheit. I bake for 20 minutes at the most. Last batch had a bit of tanning around the edges, but they tasted fine.
                Also, I was never instructed to poke holes in the cookies or to sprinkle with sugar. But I always cut very small cookies (1.5 inches diameter at the most), and when they're small and half an inch thick, they don't seem to want to pop up.

                I bought a cookie sheet that has an air gap in it (for making buttermilk biscuits), and that cookie sheet is great for keeping the bottom of the cookies from getting too dark.

                Love, love, love these shortbreads. Not overly sweet, not overly greasy, dense, subtle, yum.

                I think I"ll try baking my little shortbread cookies at 300 to see if they'll set just as nicely but without the touch of tanning around the edges.

                1. re: smfan

                  Oh, I want to add one more thing:
                  I have used both regular granulated white sugar and "instant dissolving" sugar (a.k.a. superfine or bar sugar, and it's possibly the exact same thing as caster sugar), but without varying the quantity, and both versions turn out wonderfully. Here in Toronto, superfine/instant dissolving sugar is not something available in large bags. That's a shame, I think, because a lot of baked things come out better with it.

              3. re: janniecooks

                Unlike the OP I want my shortbread a bit sandy, especially after having fallen in love with a lilikoi (Passion fruit) pie I had on Kauai, with a sandy shortbread crust. What I figured out was subbing in a bit of rice flour, I think half a cup, and that worked very well.

                And I do prefer to roll the dough and at least chill it overnight. As long as it's kept airtight it doesn't need to be frozen, just cold.

                1. re: Will Owen

                  Do you have a recipe -- or at least a more detailed description -- for the filling? TIA

                  1. re: almond tree

                    I assume you meant the dough, though I am thinking of baking it into little shells in a muffin tin and making 2-bite lemon tarts … anyway, no, I don't have anything memorized. I just pick up the nearest likely cookbook – probably the one of Scottish cookery! – and follow whatever's in that, subbing in maybe two Tbs of rice flour for the AP. It is really hard to screw up shortbread; it doesn't even give a damn if you keep opening the oven to see how it's coming. It's kind of like the pork shoulder of the cookie world.

                    1. re: Will Owen

                      Actually I was interested in the passion fruit filling. I love the flavor of passion fruit, but have no experience cooking with it beyond one very successful :) experiment with sherbet a few months ago.

              4. Never added corn starch or an egg. Have used half sugar half brown sugar. But I like to age the cookies a week or so. The brown sugar keeps them moist enough to eat without cracking a tooth.

                1. I'm a butter-sugar-flour type person for my shortbread - but I'm surprised that in those that posted recipes, they don't use any "flavor" - I really like a touch of vanilla or lemon in my shortbread, not enough to be a prominent flavor but a hint. I know - sacrilege

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: thimes

                    No, not a sacrilege. It's just that, in my opinion, the sugar-butter-flour combo in the 1:3:8 ratio (and especially if one uses both unsalted and salted butter), creates an exquisite, subtle flavour. Eating one of these cookies is a little zen moment in mindful savouring.

                    I once tried adding cocoa powder to the dough, but there wasn't enough sugar in it to make the cocoa into an interesting presence. Now I leave the recipe alone.