Shortbread

Shortbread is a wonderful starting point for all kinds of sweet adventures: top it (nuts, chocolate, jam); flavor it (lemon, hazelnut, coconut); or do both (cappuccino with a mocha ganache drizzle, anyone?). Then again, if you're a "make mine vanilla, please" kind of guy or gal, leave it alone; it can stand on its own in perfect simplicity.

Our guarantee: This light-gold, crisp/flaky shortbread is buttery and mildly sweet. It will be about 1/4" thick.
 

Prep
15 mins
Bake
35 mins
Total
50 mins
Yield
2 dozen shortbread wedges
Shortbread

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Lightly grease two round 9" cake pans. If you worry about the shortbread possibly sticking in your particular pans, line them with parchment, and grease the parchment.

  2. In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, vanilla, and almond extract, then beat in the flour. The mixture may seem a little dry at first; keep beating till it comes together. If it absolutely won't come together, dribble in up to 1 tablespoon of water, until it does. This is a stiff dough.

  3. Divide the dough in half (if you have a scale, each half will weigh about 10 1/2 ounces), and press each half into one of the prepared pans, smoothing the surface with your fingers, or with a mini rolling pin.

  4. Use a fork to prick the dough all over; this allows any steam to escape, and prevents the shortbread from bubbling as it bakes. Prick the dough in a random pattern, but it looks nicer pricked with some kind of symmetry.

  5. Bake the shortbread until it's a light golden brown across the top surface, and a deeper golden brown around the edges, about 35 minutes.

  6. Remove it from the oven, and immediately turn each shortbread round out onto a clean work surface.

  7. Using a pizza wheel or sharp knife, cut each round into 12 wedges. (Do this while the shortbread is still warm; if you wait until it's cool, it won't cut easily.) Transfer the shortbread wedges to a rack to cool.

  8. Serve as is, or decorate. Here are a few suggestions:
    Drizzle with melted caramel;
    Spread with melted chocolate, and sprinkle with nuts;
    Set aside two shortbread cookies, and spread the remainder of the cookies with a thick layer of jam or preserves. Crumble the reserved cookies, and sprinkle the crumbs lightly over the jam.
     

Tips from our Bakers

  • If you're having trouble pressing the shortbread flat in the pan because it's sticking to your fingers, cover it with a piece of plastic wrap, and push on the wrap. Remove the wrap before baking.
  • Although we usually use unsalted butter in our baking here at King Arthur, in this case salted is preferred. Why? Because, with no liquid in the recipe, it's impossible for added salt to disperse itself fully through the shortbread dough; you end up with unpleasantly gritty bits of salt in each bite.
  • Vary the flavor of your shortbread with the following simple additions. For ginger shortbread: add 1/3 cup finely diced ginger and 1 teaspoon ground ginger. For butter-pecan shortbread: add 1/8 teaspoon butter rum flavor and 1 cup finely diced toasted pecans. For chai-spiced shortbread: add 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon crushed cardamom, and 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves.
  • To give your shortbread festive flavor for the holidays, omit the almond extract, and add ¼ to ½ teaspoon eggnog flavor and a pinch of grated nutmeg to the dough.
  • Want to make shortbread drop cookies? Drop the dough by teaspoonfuls onto a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Flatten each ball of dough to about 3/8" thick; use the bottom of a drinking glass, the tines of a fork, a cookie stamp, or whatever implement you think will make a pretty pattern. Bake the cookies for about 25 minutes in a preheated 300°F oven, until they're set but not really beginning to brown. Remove them from the oven, and cool on the pans, or on a rack. Yield: about 4 dozen small (1 3/8") cookies.