Now I this idea to make this because I had so much of that Orange Cream Frosting from the Easter Carrot Cake that I had posted earlier. Probably not my best idea I’ve ever had putting those two together. Not because it tasted horrible, but because trying to put some frosting on a delicate shortbread cookie just did not work out for me. I should have just stuck with my original idea of making some vanilla sugar cookies. But shortbread cookies are just so easy to make and they require so few ingredients.
So why is it called shortbread? From what I can find, it has to do with the “shortness” or crumbly-ness (probably not a real word) of the dough. Since this cookie has such a high fat content, the gluten in the flour can’t be developed like it is in a chewy loaf of bread or even a regular chocolate chip cookie. Again, historically this is a special occasion dessert due to the cost and availability of ingredients back in the day. Typically this was served on Christmas day and / or New Year’s.
The basic recipe can be adjusted in a variety of different ways: you can mix in some chocolate chips; you can make a more savory one with rosemary and lavendar in it which seems very Provencal; you can add spices or maybe some crystallized ginger. Just be sure not to add too much since the cookie might not be able to hold together. I added some lemon and lime zest to this recipe. The recipe itself is three basic ingredients — sugar, flour, and butter (and just a little touch of salt). They follow a simple ratio of one part sugar, two parts butter, and four parts flour. Sometimes there is the addition of some other kind of starch which can change the texture. For example, rice flour can add extra crunch and crispiness while cornstarch makes things softer and “shorter”. So here’s what you need:
- a 9×9 baking dish (if you don’t have one, just use what you have. the important thing is that the dough should be about 1/2 in deep)
- 2 sticks very room temperature butter
- 1/2 t. salt
- 1/2 c. granulated sugar
- 1 2/3 c. flour, sifted
- 1/3 c. cornstarch, sifted
- zest of 1 lime
- zest of 1/2 lemon
- superfine sugar for dusting
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter your pan or spray with cooking spray.
2. Place butter in your mixing bowl. Mix until very creamy and soft. Add the salt and mix. Now add the sugar and zests and mix together until just combined.
3. Sift together the flour and cornstarch (either into another bowl or a large sheet of parchment). Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until a nice smooth dough forms.
4. Press the dough evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the top is lightly golden. Cool on a wire rack until warm.
5. Sprinkle the still warm shortbread with the superfine sugar. Cut the cookies into 1/2″ x 2″ strips (or whatever shape you want. I cut them into cubes cuz they kinda look like sugar cubes. again, probably not my best idea). You should use a thin knife when cutting — I have a small filet knife that I use for tasks like this. You could even try rolling out the dough and using cookie cutters. Traditional shapes for shortbread cookies are either those strips or fingers, individual formed rounds, or petticoat tails (larger rounds that have been cut into wedges).