Sometimes we just need a solid sidekick cookie.
You know, the kind of cookie you look for when the contents of your mug merit no distractions, but you are eager for something to munch or dunk. You follow?
At these moments, what we really need is a simple butter cookie. Shortbread is just the ticket.
Pretentious and cliche as it may be, Mr. Pedantic and I fell into ardent appreciation for humble shortbread while in Scotland, and I have been rolling it out on the regular ever since.
Despite the frequency of its appearance in our home, it is only recently that I have come to achieve the texture and flavor I was itching for.
I wanted a crumbly, unmistakably buttery, not overly-sweet short cookie and, like so many "simple" recipes, it took some experimentation to get it just right.
Shortbread follows a simple ratio, 1 part sugar, 2 parts butter, and 3 parts flour. Simple, to be sure, but there are a great many ways to turn this little threesome into less than delightful cookies.
After several trial runs, I decided to try using cake flour in place of all-purpose.
Cake flour has far less gluten than all-purpose flour, so it naturally results in more crumbly pastries and bakes.
After the flour had been decided upon, I was left to consider the butter.
The answer was not long in the coming; salted and European.
In addition to my flour, sugar, and butter, I added a pinch of salt and a splash of vanilla extract.
The results, at long last, were just what I had been dreaming of for nearly a year and a half.
Faintly sweet, crumbly, and rich with butter.
To adorn their simple appearance, I pressed my short dough with a few of my great grandmother's doilies. I think the lacy effect is rather charming.
My new favorite shortbread is a sure way to bring a bit of elegance into your week, even if you happen to be eating it one-handed as you run out the door.
LACEY SALTED SHORTBREAD
YIELDS 18 COOKIES
- 8 ounces salted butter, softened
- 4 ounces granulated sugar
- 12 ounces cake flour
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Place butter the work bowl of your stand mixer that has been fitted with the paddle attachment. With the mixer on medium speed, beat butter until fluffy; about 2 minutes.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in sugar. Cream the mixture for 2 minutes.
Reduce the speed to low and gradually add flour, salt, and vanilla. Increase speed to medium, and mix until the dough comes together in a smooth ball. Switch out the paddle attachment for the dough hook and kneed the dough for five minutes.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, shape into a disk, and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for fifteen minutes.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Lay the disc out onto a well-floured surface and roll out to 1/3-inch in thickness. Lay several lace doilies over the surface of the dough and firmly roll the pin over the doilies, pressing them into the dough until it begins to seep through the holes of the doilies. Pull away the doilies and use a 3-inch biscuit cutter to cut rounds of dough.
Lay the cut cookies out onto the lined baking sheets and place them in the freezer to chill for fifteen minutes.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the edges are just golden. Transfer the cookies to cooling racks and allow to cool completely before transferring to an airtight container.