Tuesday, January 3, 2012

An Adventure in Shortbread Part 1...(Part 4 of 'Christmas Cookies'...)

The thing with Shortbread is that my mom likes the buttery 'Walkers'-like Scottish version (the one that comes in the Tartan packaging...), and everyone else likes the light and airy, melt-in-your-mouth Whipped version.  So, in order to spread the Christmas joy to all those around me.....I make both.  I am fairly certain this is how I go through so many pounds of butter in December....

Basic Shortbread (the one that my Mom likes...)

I've been using a recipe for shortbread, which was ripped out of an old Martha Stewart magazine, for years now.  It's a very basic shortbread recipe (hence the name of the recipe), which isn't too sweet.

I try not to fancy it up, which means no icing, sprinkles, nonpareils etc, because it's pretty good as is and it's a nice departure from the super sweet decorated treats which are available in abundance at this time of year (don't get me wrong, I love those too...I do sometimes wonder how the silver nonpareil's end up 'silver'....one of life's mysteries I guess...).  This is the kind of shortbread that is good for dunking in a hot cup of tea...

The other good thing about this cookie is that it lasts for about a month in an airtight container...and tastes even better about a week after it has been baked. 

Basic Shortbread
(makes about 36 cookies – depending on how big you want the cookie to be)

1 1/3 cups unsalted butter, room temperature, (plus more for pans)
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour 

(1) Preheat oven to 275 degrees
(2) Butter a 9 x 10 x 1 inch baking pan (it's okay if it's a little bigger)
(3) In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy 
(4) Add salt, vanilla and almond extract, mix to combine
(5) Turn the mixer speed to low and add flour, 1 cup at a time, until just combined
(6) Press dough into prepared pan (1/2" thick) leveling and smoothing the top (I use the side of a tall water glass as a mini rolling pin to smooth out the top)
(7) (this step makes cutting them easier once they have finished baking) using a dough scraper or a dull knife (you don't want to scratch the bottom of you baking pans) cut dough lengthwise into about 9 strips (or however wide you want the cookie to be)  cut the strips crosswise into 36 bars about 3 inches wide (or however long you want the cookie to be) 
(8) Using a fork, poke a creative decoration into the surface of the unbaked cookie
(9) Bake shortbread until they are a light gold colour (but not browned) - this can take 75-85 minutes, so be patient
(10) Once finished baking, remove pan from oven, let cool slightly on a wire rack.  Once it's cooled slightly, go over cuts that were made prior to baking with a dull knife
(11) Let cool complete, remove from pan
(12) Can be stored in an airtight container for up to a month 

Warning, these are very addictive....

Up next….Part 5 of 5 of the 2011’s Christmas cookie extravaganza!  Whipped Shortbread….

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