Shortbread Heaven

Freshly baked shortbread.

“Do as I say, not as I do” never applied more perfectly than at this moment. I’ve been making shortbread cookies for decades, yet still managed to totally screw up the directions today. I was busy baking something else and thought it would be wise to multitask by measuring out the shortbread ingredients at the same time. Hah!

I knew that the butter and sugar were supposed to be mixed first and then everything else  added, but I was moving like a whirling dervish and went right ahead and dumped all of the dry ingredients together into one bowl. That meant the butter and sugar weren’t mixed until fluffy, and it was hard to get the dough to come together, so I had to add a couple of teaspoons of milk to coax it into cooperation. But (you know what’s coming here, right?) it still turned out fine!

Here is a recipe for basic shortbread, which has a sweet buttery flavor and a delicate texture that melts in your mouth. Perfection. But because I can’t help tinkering with perfection, I was compelled to dip the cookies in dark chocolate and sprinkle some of them with nuts. They look very elegant, and taste like sin.  (And yes, I’m leaving the two teaspoons of milk in the recipe because it made it easier to handle and didn’t affect the texture.)

Chocolate dipped shortbread. (Or…gilding the lily!)

SHORTBREAD COOKIES

2 cups powdered sugar
2 cups butter, softened
2 teaspoons milk or half & half
2 egg yolks
4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cornstarch

  • Heat the oven to 350 F.
  • In a large bowl, combine powdered sugar and butter.  Beat until light and fluffy.
  • Add egg yolks and milk, and blend well. (If using a stand mixer, you may want to switch to the dough hook at this point.)
  • Add the flour, cornstarch and salt. Stir just until the mixture forms a smooth dough.
  • Roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut with a cookie cutter.  Alternately, you can also roll the dough into small balls and press with a cookie stamp, or put the dough through a cookie press. These will not spread on the cookie sheet, so you can put them close together.

    Using a cookie stamp with an apple design.

  • Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 9-12 minutes, just until golden brown around the bottom edges.  Cool on the pan for a few minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack.

It’s almost impossible to guess how many cookies this recipe will make; it depends on the size of your cookie cutters and how thinly you roll them. I can confidently say that it makes a buttload ton of cookies! At least 48 good sized ones – probably more.

If you want to jazz them up a bit, you can sprinkle them with coarse sugar before baking, or wait until they’re baked and cooled, then dip each one in melted chocolate, lightly scraping the bottom of the cookie against the bowl to remove excess chocolate. Place them on a waxed paper covered baking sheet to harden. I always pop mine in the freezer for just a few minutes, which speeds things up and helps keep the chocolate from “blooming” (getting little light colored spots on it.)

Dipping the shortbread in dark chocolate.

If chocolate covered shortbread isn’t enough to make you deliriously happy, here is one more variation. Because of my love affair with maple, I had to try making a maple flavored shortbread, and am tickled with the results.

Frosted maple shortbread cookies.

To make these, use the shortbread cookie recipe above, except substitute 2 teaspoons of Mapleine (maple flavoring) for the 2 teaspoons of milk. When the cookies are baked and cooled, cover them thinly with icing and drizzle them with a brown maple accent. Here’s the icing recipe:

ICING FOR MAPLE COOKIES

3 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon powdered egg whites (“Just Whites” or Wilton’s “Meringue Powder” work well)
1/2 teaspoon “Mapleine”
small pinch of salt

  • In a medium bowl, beat together the powdered sugar, water, and powdered egg whites with a mixer for 2-3 minutes. Remove 2 rounded tablespoons of icing to a small bowl, add 1/2 teaspoon of Mapleine, and set aside.
  • Add water, 1/2 teaspoon at a time, to the white icing in the medium bowl until it’s thin enough to spread onto the cookies easily. You may use a knife, but I prefer a pastry brush.

    “Painting” the cookies with icing.

    Because of the powdered egg whites, this icing will become very firm, so only use enough to cover the cookie with a thin layer.

    • Put the maple icing from the small bowl into a zipper bag and cut a tiny bit off of one of the corners. Drizzle or pipe a design on the cookies, and allow them to harden completely before storing in an airtight cannister. These can also be frozen.

      Piping maple accents on iced shortbread.

    I think my culinary trip to Scotland is over for now. Be glad this is a baking blog, not a cooking blog, or I’d probably feel honor bound to give you a recipe for Haggis!

    Guid cheerio the nou!

5 thoughts on “Shortbread Heaven

  1. I made these one Autumn with a hint of orange zest, and half dipped in dark chocolate. They were a hit! I’ll be trying the maple version this Autumn for SURE!

  2. You’re killing me ! I’m trying to lose weight and you keep adding yummy & high caloric recipes to tempt me from this effort 😛

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