by Gay Cook
I receive many requests for this famous recipe which are crisp but melt in your mouth. 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, we like convenience, so I succumb to using a mixer, which is great but not quite the real thing. The rice flour or cornstarch is added to shortbread for crispness. Shortbread is famous for its buttery taste so never try to make it with margarine or try to dress it up with nuts or chocolate chips. If you wish you can replace half the flour with whole wheat flour.
Makes 3 to 4 dozen cookies or 9-inch (22.5-cm) circle
- 1 cup (250 mL) chilled unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) fruit or fine granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) cornstarch or part rice flour
- 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) unbleached all-purpose or bread flour
- Pinch salt
By hand: On work surface, mound the flour and toss in the cornstarch or rice flour and salt. Make a well in the centre, add the butter and sugar and begin to work the two together with your fingers then the flour blending until all the flour is used. Use the heel of your hand to knead briefly until the dough is blended and pliable. Cover the dough and chill for 30 minutes to rest the dough. Preheat oven to 325ºF (160ºC).
By machine: Using the bread dough attachment beat on slow speed beat the butter, sugar, cornstarch and flour just until the dough until the dough comes together. Remove the dough and form into a disk. Wrap in plastic or waxed paper for 30 minutes.
To make cookies, roll dough to 1/4-inch (1-cm) thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut into shapes and place cookies on a non-greased baking sheet. Prick shapes once or twice with a fork. If cookie dough is soft, chill filled sheet for 10 – 15 minutes. Bake 20 to 25 minutes until shortbread is crisp and golden.
To make old-fashioned rectangle shapes, press dough into 8-inch (20 cm) square pan. Flute the edges by pressing the finger between the thumb and first finger of the opposite hand. Use a knife to score the outline of 6 parallel lines and 3 lines cutting across the 6 lines making 18 rectangles. Use a fork to prick through the surface 8 to 10 times.
Rounds: Press dough into 8-inch (20 cm) round cake tin or press into a circle, 3/4-inch (2-cm) thick on a non-greased 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 50 60 minutes, or until light golden. Cool before removing from the baking sheet and then cut into wedges.