It’s no secret I make an insane amount of food on a weekly basis. For all the successful sweet treats I make, they end up in one of two categories (trust me, there’s a whole other category dedicated to the major fails):
1) Delicious; definitely post-worthy; family loved them; ultimately safe to keep around if it’s just me and the treat alone in the house because for one reason or another, while tasty, they don’t speak to my soul like some desserts.
2) Perfection; yummiest things on earth; I most likely end up dreaming about them, get them out of my house immediately because I will eat every little morsel before Brian gets home from work (and you don’t even want to know the lengths I’ve gone to disguise the fact that I did just that).
I’m not even exaggerating about #2. While I do have a certain amount of self-control when it comes to food (I think I kind of have to as a food blogger unless I want to change shape quickly, if you know what I mean), there are a handful of things that I am literally powerless to resist. It’s ridiculous. That pretzel caramel dark chocolate mess I posted about last week is a classic example.
And surprisingly (in case you are wondering where I’m going with this), so is this amazing shortbread. Shortbread, who knew, right? But really, I could not stop eating this. So much so that I made my Aunt Marilyn meet me at an undisclosed location halfway between our two houses really late one night to make a handoff that felt kind of shady but totally necessary under the circumstances.
Shortbread is such a quintessential holiday cookie, don’t you think? This version wowed me big time and made me think that shortbread could even surpass some of my chocolate-filled cookie favorites. Or better yet, maybe dipping the shortbread in chocolate could accomplish the best of both worlds.
I stuck with the simple route of cutting the shortbread into thin rectangles (to make it more like a cookie versus baking it super thick and cutting after it cools like many recipes call for) – you could also roll out the shortbread dough and cut it into any shape you like as long as you have a cookie cutter ready and waiting.
While I’ve made chocolate shortbread lots (and lots and lots) of times, this is my first venture into classic Scottish shortbread and I now understand what people mean when they talk about how addicting it is.
It may not be the most glamorous holiday cookie out there, but it certainly is one of the most delicious. Sometimes simple really is the best.
Cake flour helps this shortbread be amazingly light and tender. If you don't have any on hand, here's a quick DIY: How to Make Cake Flour. If you want to get especially adventurous, substitute rice flour for the cake flour - it makes the shortbread even lighter and more crisp.
I like to make the shortbread thin and delicate but you could cut it much thicker (upwards of 3/4-inch thick); increase the baking time to nearly double if doing so.
- 1 pound (4 sticks) butter, room temperature
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (5 1/2 ounces)
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces)
- 1 cup cake flour (5 ounces)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- In a large bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer), beat the butter, vanilla and powdered sugar together with an electric mixer (use the paddle attachment on a stand mixer, if using) until combined.
- Gradually add the all-purpose flour, cake flour and salt and mix until just combined (don't over mix the dough).
- Press the dough into a rectangle shape about 1 1/2 inches high (see pictures below) on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about an hour. The dough can e refrigerated for several days. Alternately, if you want to cut the shortbread into different shapes (other than a thin rectangle), press the dough into a disc-shape and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (similar to how you would do it if refrigerating sugar cookie dough or a pie crust).
- Once firm, take a large, sharp knife or the straight edge of a bench scraper and cut the long rectangle dough into 1/4-inch slices (again, see picture below). If the cookies aren't perfectly straight not he edges, press them into an even shape or trim the edges. Otherwise, roll the dough out on a lightly floured countertop to about 1/4-inch thickness and cut into desired shapes.
- Place the cut cookies about 1-inch apart on a parchment or silpat-lined baking sheet. Prick each cookie a few times with the tines of a fork.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the cookies for 15-18 minutes until lightly golden around the edges, increasing or decreasing the baking time as needed. Let the cookies sit on the baking sheets for 2-3 minutes after removing from the oven before sliding to a cooling rack to cool completely.
- The shortbread can be stored covered at room temperature for several days.
Recipe Source: adapted from The Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg (made the ingredient amounts a little more approachable (16 ounces butter vs. 18 1/2 ounces butter) and adapted the recipe accordingly, also changed baking temperature and time)