Secrets of Shortbread

shortbread
Heart-shaped Shortbread

As a pastry chef, I frequently get asked “What is your favorite dessert?”.  Well the answer is that I have many favorites! Of course, I am a pastry chef and get to eat delectable treats all day.  To say that I have a favorite is like asking a mother which child she prefers.  But, I will say that after spending many hours completing intricate wedding cakes or piping the perfect mousse, simplicity is often my favorite trait in a dessert.  And one of the simplest (and most delightful) desserts I can think of is shortbread.

Shortbread is all about the butter which of course I love.  The name literally describes the short gluten strands that are created in the cookie by greasing the flour up with butter.  But, it isn’t just the butter that makes this cookie fabulous.  It is that it is so simple and yet it goes with anything.  You can dress it up by dipping it in chocolate or adorning it with nuts.  You can crumble it and top a tart.  Or, like me, you can have it with a cup of tea and enjoy it while pondering over your day’s activities.  Which method will you choose? 🙂

Shortbread (From Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery book)

  • 180 grams unsalted butter
  • 90 g sugar
  • 2 salt
  • 6 g vanilla paste
  • 270 g all purpose flour
  • extra sugar for dusting the cookies
  1. Cream butter and sugar together in a mixer using the paddle attachment for 2-3  minutes until butter is soft, light, pale, and fluffy.  Add salt and vanilla paste.  Mix for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Mix for 1 more minute.
  2. Add flour.  Mix slowly until the dough just starts to come together and then dump the contents on the counter and knead the ingredients into a dough.
  3. Wrap with plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour or overnight.
  4. Roll dough out between two sheets of parchment paper (this will keep the dough from sticking and you will not need additional flour).  You can bang on the dough a bit with the rolling pin to soften it before rolling it.
  5. Roll the dough to about 1/4 inch thick and then cut into 2×1 rectangles.  I also like to cut my shortbread into hearts.  (This can be very elegant later if you decide to dip half the heart into chocolate).
  6. Place cut cookies onto cookie tray with at least 1/2 inch between them.
  7. Dust cookies lightly with granulated sugar.
  8. Chill cookies for at least 1 hour to relax the gluten.
  9. Bake cookies at 325 F for 15-18 minutes until they are a pale golden brown.
  10. Enjoy! 🙂

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