Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Tale of Two Shortbreads

I had big plans for December, and though I've accomplished a fair bit, I never did blog all my Christmas Baking recipes like I'd planned, so I mentioned to Nigel the other day that I was going to blog every day until Christmas with one cookie recipe. He scoffed when I said this, and it seems he may have been right - there's only four days left before Christmas day and I have more than four recipes to share, hence, the title of the post.

Let's get down to some baking:

Everyone I know has some recipe or another for Shortbread, but I'm here to share with you how it's really done. Shortbread is the purest of all the baking at Christmas, there are very few ingredients (specific ingredients, please) and a simple, though exhausting technique.

Real Scottish Shortbread

1 cup butter, softened (that's butter, please, no margarine or other faux fats)
1/3 cup berry sugar (not granulated sugar, and not icing sugar, those are wrong)
1 2/3 cup unbleached flour
1/3 cup rice flour (you can use 2 cups unbleached flour, but you'll get your hands slapped)

Cream the butter very well (this sounds simple doesn't it? It's not, I put my butter in the stand mixer and beat, beat, beat until it's very pale and soft. If you don't have an electric mixer you can expect to develop big, brawny Scottish forearms.) Gradually add the sugar (again this sounds very straightforward, but the word to remember in that line is gradually, just a spoonful at a time). Gradually add the flours (see sugar reference). Turn out of bowl and knead dough until it begins to crack (this shouldn't take long if you've done everything else I told you). Wrap in wax paper and chill for 30 minutes. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface about 1/4 inch thick using as little flour as possible (too much flour will make them tough). Cut into fancy shapes - try to be economical in your shape cutting, you want to roll and cut as few times as possible. Place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 325 degrees F for 15 minutes (if you've rolled them a little thin you'll want to make sure to check them so they don't burn).

Well done! Here's another recipe that's for "shortbread" too:

Lemon Shortbread

3/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup icing sugar (I know, that's why I call it "shortbread")
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1/4 tsp salt (I don't bother with this if the only butter I have in the house is salted)
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp grated lemon zest
2 Tbsp sugar

Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until light. Sift the flour and salt together in another bowl, and add to the butter mixture. Then add the vanilla and lemon zest, and blend thoroughly. Gather the dough into a ball and wrap in wax paper, chill for 4-6 hours (well...sometimes I cheat a little on the time). Remove from the refrigerator and let softened slightly. Line an 8-inch cake pan with foil or parchment. Press the dough into cake pan. Sprinkle with the 2 Tbsp sugar, and refrigerate, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Bake until the shortbread is just starting to colour. about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool, then cut into 2 x 1 inch bars.

Not real Shortbread, but very nice none-the-less.


Nigel said...

"Scoff" is such a harsh word. I was merely concerned that you may over-extend yourself -- my delicate little flower.

Jane said...

mmmmmm delicioso.
I haven't made any shortbread this season. There's still time.....

martiangirl said...

please make shortbread!! one of my favorites.