One year. My little blog is one year old! Hard to believe. So, for my one year anniversary, I decided to write a blog about my secret most favorite obsession. I have never confessed this to anyone, but my favorite cookie, bar none (Ha! I see what I did there…), is shortbread. Delightfully simple. Crumbly, buttery, and just simply fantastic. I tried Walker’s Scottish Shortbread years ago and was simply enchanted, despite the fact that it lacked my most favorite ingredient: Chocolate.
Shortbread, said to be the favorite cookie of Mary, Queen of Scots, first appeared in cookbooks in 1736. Interestingly, it started as a yeast recipe. But the mid-1800s, it morphed into the more modern familiar butter-flour-sugar based recipe.
Finding a recipe was rather easy, but there seems to be a bit of a divide. Some recipes are very purist: flour, sugar, and butter. But there is some discussion about adding either cornstarch or rice starch to the mix. The recipe I used called for confectioner’s sugar, which is essentially sugar mixed with cornstarch. Why cornstarch or rice starch or rice flour? These items contribute bulk without toughness because there is no protein or gluten. Fun fact I learned making these cookies!
“Short” in baking vernacular is not a description of the size of final product, but that something was used to shorten the gluten strands that form when you use flour. So, shortbread will be a crumbly cookie, because it lacks long strands of gluten. The butter playing the part of “shortening” the gluten strands.
I added the chocolate not for my own amusement, but my daughter thought the cookies would be better with chocolate. I did not, I thought they were perfect plain. Of course, she won out!
I found the recipe in James Beard’s American Cookery and added the chocolate!
Chocolate Dipped Shortbread
1 1/2 cups butter (some recommend 1/2 salted/1/2 unsalted)
1 cup powdered sugar (may also use plain sugar)
4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 tablespoon butter
Cream the butter until almost like whipped cream. Gradually cream in the sugar and continue beating until very light. Stir in the flour, then turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured board or counter and knead the mixture until it is very smooth and will break slightly when the thumb is run from the center to the edge of the ball of dough.
Side note: This is not “dough” in the traditional sense. This is a pile of crumbs. Seriously. See photo below:
You can still kind of knead it and see that it does change consistency after several minutes. I seriously wasn’t expecting it to be a pile of sand. Now, if you omit the confectioner’s sugar and just use regular sugar, I doubt your dough would look like this.
Traditionally, this dough is pressed into shallow pie pans, the dough being about a 1/2 inch thick. The edges are fluted as on a pie crust, and the serving portions are stippled across the dough with a fork so that the shortbread can be broken easily into small pieces. Prick the dough with a fork in even the smallest pans, or it is apt to blister in the enter.
Bake in a 275-300 degree oven until the dough turns a pale brown around the edges. Time of baking depends on size of pan and thickness of the dough.
Remove from the pan, cool on a rack, and store in an airtight container.
For the chocolate dipping sauce: place chocolate and butter in a microwave safe bowl. Using 50% power, in small bursts of time, microwave the chocolate and butter until just melted through. I do this in 2 minute increments and stir between times. Slather on cookies, let dry.