Tuesday, February 2, 2010


I feel a little bit bad for the shortbread cookie. I would like to say that I had a craving for shortbread and had been planning on making it for days, but that could not be farther from the truth. The truth was that I felt like baking but was too lazy to go to the store to re-stock some essential baking ingredients such as milk and eggs. What I did have was butter, and the handful of other ingredients this recipe needed. And so, out of an unwillingness to go to the store, came this shortbread.

But this cookie deserves more credit than that. For something with so few ingredients these are exceptionally delicious. The consistency is crumbly yet fine, and they are buttery with a savory edged sweetness. They can be prepared in less than an hour and last up to two weeks in an airtight container. So the lowly little shortbread has a lot more to offer than it was the only thing I could make with the ingredients I had laying around.

The recipe comes from the Tartine cookbook, which is a renowned San Francisco bakery and cafe.
I've never been to the bakery, but based on the mouth-watering recipes in this book, I would be remiss not to pay it a visit someday. What I like and sometimes dislike about this cookbook is the attention to detail. Each recipe is meticulously covered step by step down to the smallest detail. This means that a lot of the desserts in the book can be a little high maintenance, but the results are well worth the effort. This shortbread recipe is most definitely not high maintenance however and may be the simplest in the book. This simplicity is yet another reason this cookie deserves more credit than it receives.

For this particular shortbread recipe, Tartine recommends using butter that is extremely soft. It describes the butter needing to be the consistency of mayonnaise which is pretty darn soft. I achieved this by microwaving it in ten second intervals until it was at that point. Place your butter in either the bowl of a stand mixer or a medium mixing bowl.
Add the salt and then mix until the salt is completely dissolved.

Sift the flour and cornstarch into a bowl or on to a piece of parchment paper.
Gradually add the sugar to the butter and mix until just combined.

Add the flour and cornstarch and mix until the dough just comes together. Mine was still a little crumbly still and it turned out fine. Place the dough into a buttered pan.

Pat the dough out as even as possible and bake in the oven for around 30 minutes. You want the edges and the bottom to be just golden brown.

Once the shortbread is done cooking, take it out and let it cool on a wire rack for about 10-15 minutes. You want it to still be warm, but not too hot to handle. Sprinkle the surface with sugar and tilt the pan to coat, shaking out the excess. This will give the shortbread a sparkling top layer and add some sweetness.
While the shortbread is still warm, cut it into slices using a sharp knife. If it gets too cold it will be more difficult to cut. Once cut, let it continue to cool completely in the pan.
Once the shortbread is cooled, carefully lift out the pieces. The first piece will possibly break and be difficult to get out but it should be easy after that. It's even easier using a small offset spatula.
Enjoy your delicious shortbread and make sure to share it with some friends so it can get the credit it deserves.
Adapted from Tartine

1 cup + 2 tbsp (9 oz) unsalted butter, very soft
½ tsp salt
1 ¾ cups + 2 tbsp (9 oz) all-purpose flour
½ cup + 2 tbsp (2 2/3 oz) cornstarch
1/3 cup (2 ½ oz) granulated sugar
¼ cup (2 oz) superfine or granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 325 degree Fahrenheit. Butter a 6 x 10 inch glass baking dish*

Place the butter in a mixing bowl. The butter must be very soft – the consistency of mayonnaise or whipped cream. Add the salt to the butter and mix well so that it dissolves completely before you add the rest of the ingredients. (I used a stand mixer with the paddle attachment) Sift the flour and cornstarch together. Add the granulated sugar to the butter and mix just until combined. Add the flour mixture and mix just until a smooth dough forms.

Pat the dough evenly into the prepared baking dish. The dough should be no more than 2/3 inch deep. Bake until the top and bottom are lightly browned, about 30 minutes (mine took about 35 minutes). The middle of the shortbread should remain light. Let cool on a wire rack for about 10-15 minutes.

Sprinkle the shortbread with the superfine or granulated sugar. Tilt the dish so that the sugar fully and evenly coats the surface and then tip out the excess sugar. With a very thin, sharp knife, cut the shortbread into rectangular fingers. If the cookies have become cold they will not slice well, so they must still be warm to the touch at this point. Chill thoroughly before removing from the baking dish.

The first cookie is difficult to remove, but the rest should come out easily with the aid of a small, thin offset spatula. The cookies will keep in an airtight container in a cool place for 2 weeks.

*I'm not sure I've ever seen a 6 x 10 inch baking dish before. I thought that was pretty random. Until I pulled down the glass baking dish that I own, measured it, and found out that it's 8 x 12 inches. Which may be even more random than 6 x 10... Anyways, I used that, and it worked fine. I'm pretty sure the more traditional 9 x 13 inches would work fine as well.

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