Gay Cook’s Christmas shortbread

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Makes 3-4 dozen cookies or 1 8 inch (20 cm) circle

Shortbread season is upon us. In Scotland years ago, I learned how to make traditional rich, tender, buttery shortbread by hand, baked in rounds and cut into wedges. On this side of the water ewe like convenience so I succumb to using a mixer, which is great but not quite t he real thing. The rice flour or cornstarch is added to shortbread for crispness. Shortbread is famous for its butter taste, so never try to make it with margarine or try to dress it up with vanilla, eggs, nuts or chocolate chips. If you wish, you can replace half the flour with whole wheat flour.

  • 1 cup (250 ml) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) berry sugar (finer than granulated sugar)
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) cornstarch or rice flour
  • 1 1/2 coups (375 ml)  unbleached all-purpose flour or bread flour
  • pinch salt

By electric mixer: Beat the butter and sugar until creamy. Blend the cornstarch, flour and salt and add to the butter mixture in thirds, beating briefly after each addition, just until the dough forms. Remove the dough, form into a disk, cover and chill for 30 minutes.

by hand: On a work surface, mound the flour and stir in the cornstarch or rice flour and salt. Make a well in the center, add the butter and sugar and begin to work them together, adding a little flour at a time until all the flour is used. Use the heel of your hand to knead briefly until the dough is pliable. Cover the dough and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325°F (160°C)

Cookies: Roll the dough to 1/2 inch (1 cm) thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut into shapes, place the cookies on an ungreased  baking sheet and prick the shapes twice with a fork. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until light golden

Rounds: Press dough into an 8-inch (20 cm) round 3/4-inch-thick (2 cm) circle on an ungreased baking sheet. Flute the edges by pressing your thumb between the thumb and first finger of the opposite hand. Use a knife to score the outline of 16 wedges in the surface of the shortbread. Prick the surface 8-10 times with a fork and bake for 45-50 minutes or until light golden. Cool before removing from the baking sheet and then cut into wedges.