Saturday, December 29, 2012

shortbread: theme and variation

Tis the season to bake cookies, and December was a cookie-full month. Sugar and butter entered into the kitchen and left at a rapid rate, whisked and beaten and frothed and suspended into crumbly-soft morsels. They were duly dispatched to friends by good old fashioned post, delivered to family throughout the holidays, and devoured at the office by sugar-happy coworkers. I added a recipe to the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap of 2012, and on the way, experimented with several gazillion cookie recipes, finally settling on Almond Butter Cookies.  One evening, though, I had a crisis when I discovered I'd used up the last of the eggs: what's a girl to do with no eggs, no egg-substitute, no open grocery store, and a desire to bake something? Shortbread, of course. Few ingredients, flexible additions, and satisfyingly rich, the high butter-to-flour ratio provides a crumbly, lush cookie best savored in small, slow nibbles.  Shortbread is a rare creation, shining both in its simplest and more elaborate forms. Try plain shortbread, and let the richness of the flavor melt over your tongue, add chocolate chips and nuts for some spice, melt chocolate and dip shortbread in it, or experiment with your own wild flavors.

Shortbread, theme and variation

2 sticks (8 oz or 1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup of granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups of white whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2/3 chocolate chunks
2/3 chopped pecans or walnuts

1. Sift the salt and four together and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar in a separate bowl, then add vanilla (and almond extract, if using). Mix in the flour about 1/2 a cup at a time, until the dough is lightly mixed together. It will be crumbly and may not hold together very well.  If you are using the variation, add the nuts and chocolate now.

2. Form the dough into a ball, then flatten and shape into two loaves about half to three-quarters of an inch thick. Refrigerate for at least two hours and up to overnight.

3. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Take the molded dough and either put it on top of wax paper in a small loaf pan or on top of wax paper on a cookie sheet. Bake for 16-18 minutes, until the edges look barely browned. Let the dough cool and then slice up the cookies into large bite-sized pieces.


  1. Yum! Shortbread cookies are so rich and taste even better with mint tea, in my opinion. I like your "variations". Good eggs? Make shortbread.