No Christmas would be complete without shortbread cookies. With only 3 ingredients you would think they were easy to make and they are but there are certainly a few tricks to making them light and flaky.
My grandmother McFeeters has now passed but one of the best days with her ever was a day we spent baking together. That day she passed down a century worth of recipes and tricks to making perfect bake goods. No gadgets, just old school baking!
When I was a kid my mom used to try and make my Grandmother’s recipes but they were never quite right so I thought it was time to spend a day with the Master and get a hands on baking class. My grandmother was about 90 at the time but still full of energy and on the day of my visit she had hand written cards with all the family recipes waiting for me to dig into.
Shortbread Cookies can be a little tricky if you don’t know what the tricks are… so listen up!
First the butter needs to be at room temperature. Now this does not mean put it in the microwave to soften. That won’t work! You need to take your pound of unsalted butter and let it sit on the counter and naturally soften. You can’t rush a masterpiece!
In a large bowl ad 1/2 a lb of unsalted butter. Put a large sieve over the bowl and add 2 1/2 cups of pastry flour and 1/2 a cup of icing sugar to the sieve over the bowl. Now here is the next trick… All purpose flour just won’t do. If you want light and flaky shortbread cookies you need to use pastry flour. My Grandmother always told me to look for the red and white plaid bag otherwise known as Monarch Pastry Flour. Of course any pastry flour will do but this is the one she used so I don’t like to stray too far from the Master Plan.
Sieve the flour onto the butter so to ensure the flour and sugar are evenly blended and all lumps are gone.
Now from here you could use a pastry mixer but again sometimes old school is better. Time to get your hands dirty! Use your thumb against your fingers and blend the flour mixture into the butter. Hard to explain in writing but in both hands pick up a handful of butter and flour and rub through your thumb and fingers kinds like if you were sprinkling salt. The idea is you want to blend the butter and flour together but only until the mixture starts to look like oatmeal.
You want ripples of butter through the dough. This is what gives the shortbread it’s flakiness.
Now your want to knead the mixture until it forms a ball of dough. Do this but pushing down on the dough and pushing the dough together until if forms a ball. The heat of your hands will help bring the dough together.
Once done sprinkle your clean counter with flour and a little on your rolling pin and gently roll the dough out to about a 1/2″ thickness. Cut with a round cookie cutter or any shape you like. You can add sprinkles now or ice later when completely cooled if you wish.
Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes or until they are firm to the touch and only just starting to brown on the bottom. Remove from the pan to a cooling rack.
- 1 cup unsalted butter at room temp
- 2 1/2 cups pastry flour
- 1/2 cup icing sugar
- Sprinkles optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
In a large bowl add butter cubed
Place large sieve over the bowl and add flour and icing sugar to sieve
Run flour and icing sugar through sieve to ensure well blended and no lumps
Blend by hand the icing sugar and flour into the butter until it forms an oatmeal like texture
Knead mixture to form a large ball
Roll out until about 1/2" thickness
Cut with round cookie cutter
Add sprinkles as desired
Bake for 10 minutes or until cookies are firm to the touch and only just starting to brown on the bottom
Remove cookies from oven and to a cooling rack