Classic Shortbread

hi hi everyone! Molly here! This is a first on my blog and hopefully one of many, a post by my mom. She’s a wealth of information when it comes to baking and cooking, and the person I attribute my love for baking to. She’s been the hand model for several of my photos, taken photos, and answered quite a few questions at all hours of the day on recipes that I’ve posted on my blog. On top of that, she is an excellent writer, so I begged her to write a post for me! And Here it is! A special how to post on shortbread complete with tips and tricks from the expert herself.

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I really wasn’t planning on having a cold after Christmas.  The stray Christmas cookie (with Molly in the house, that’s a given), trips to the mall for returns and those Irresistible Sales, and New Year’s Resolution-driven long walks with Watson and Peanut were on the mental checklist.  A feverish, sneezing, box of tissues-runny nose Miserable Cold was not.

Instead, I’ve spent the last three days on the couch immersed in the London and English countryside of P.D. James.  The legendary mystery writer is always a treat, and now, at 92, has penned Death Comes to Pemberley,  a wonderful sequel to Jane Austen’s beloved Pride and Prejudice, in which that scurrilous Wickham is involved in a murder on the eve of the annual autumn ball.  I also read James’ A Taste for Death, a classic who dun-it that almost stumps ace detective Adam Dalgliesh.

Great Britain, of course, brings my thoughts to Shortbread.  A Taste for Death could very well be called A Taste for Tea.  At every turn, the persistent Dalgliesh interviews the characters immersed in the web of the crime.  And, as often as it rains in London, he is offered a cup of tea. “’Ah, here comes tea.’  It was brought in by an elderly maid and set down…with almost ritual care.  The tea was substantial.  Thin crustless bread and butter, a plate of cucumber sandwiches, homemade scones with cream and jam, a fruitcake.”

This is by far the most elaborate tea in the book, but still it makes my eye look a little more fondly on the leftover Christmas butter (hard to believe, I know) languishing in the refrigerator door.  Tea+4 p.m.+shortbread—perfect.

We’ve made four recipes of the Lemon and four of the Chocolate Shortbread this year for Christmas cookie gifts.  My favorite is the lemon—but try them and see which version of the buttery delicacy you prefer.  Oh, and always serve it with a fresh cup of Earl Grey.

Shortbread is very easy.  Beat the butter and confectioners’ sugar until light and fluffy, adding lemon zest if desired.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the flour, salt, and cocoa (if you’re making the chocolate recipe).

Remove the dough from the mixer and put the mound of dough on a floured counter.  Knead gently for 2-3 minutes, until the dough becomes smooth.  The heat from your hand melts some of the butter, helping the flour to absorb it.  It also makes for a crumble-free dough.

Trace around a 9-inch round cake pan on a sheet of parchment paper.  Turn the paper over (so you can see the circle through the parchment).  Lightly roll the dough into a 9-inch circle, using the tracing as your guide.  The dough should be about ½ inch thick.

Using your fingers, flute the edge like a piecrust.  Take a fork and prick the shortbread, being sure to go all the way to the baking sheet.

Using a small knife, score the circle into 16 wedges.  Refrigerate the dough for 20 minutes to rest.  Sprinkle with granulated sugar and bake.  After removing the shortbread from the oven, cut into wedges along the scored lines (going all the way to the baking sheet)(Molly- I forgot to do this in the below photo-whoops!). You must cut the shortbread while it’s hot, otherwise it will become hard and brittle and break into uneven pieces.

Classic Shortbread

Courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

½ cup confectioners’ sugar

2 tablespoon granulated sugar

Whisk the flour and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside. Beat the butter and confectioners’ sugar together in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium until soft and fluffy. Slowly add flour mixture and beat until combined.

Using your hands, press the dough into a ball and knead until really smooth, about 3 minutes. Press the dough into a round disk and place on parchment paper. Roll into a 9-inch circle. Flute the edges and poke all the way through with a fork. Score into 16 wedges. Refrigerate dough about 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Sprinkle dough with granulated sugar. Bake until pale golden brown, 40 to 45 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack and cut through the scored marks to separate the wedges. Let cool for 1 hour before serving.

Lemon Shortbread Variation:

Beat 2 tablespoons grated fresh lemon zest in with the butter and sugar.

Chocolate Shortbread Variation:

Substitute 1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder for 1/4 cup of the flour.

 



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