20 December 2011

Holiday Baking: Whipped Shortbread

I love shortbread. If I'm not baking anything else at this time of the year I'll still make at least one batch of shortbread. Maybe it has to do with me not trying it until I was a teenager (at which point I proceeded to make a bit of a pig of myself). Greeks have some fine sweets but sadly, shortbread is not among them (we do have a cookie that's sort of similar and is always described as Greek shortbread but, as good as it is, it's not the same). Luckily my SO is as much a fan as I am (that might have something to do with having a Scottish dad) so shortbread is definitely a household favourite. Even better--it's easy to make!

The ingredients:

This particular recipe usually involves simply dropping the dough from a spoon onto the baking sheets but I thought I'd make them a little fancier this year using one of my few cookie stamps. This one has to be my favourite--it's so pretty:

I don't recommend creaming the butter and sugar by hand. Holy work, Batman! If only my mixer bowl had been available. Still, I got the job done:

I meant to take a photo of what happened after the flour was added but I guess it slipped my mind. Instead of dough I ended up with crumbs. This happens occasionally and I'm not sure why. If it happens to you, don't despair! Shortbread is very forgiving. You can simply press the mixture into a shortbread pan like this one (which happens to be the one I've got):
Or you can press the dough into a regular pan and cut into pieces after it's baked. Or you can do what I did and press handfuls of crumbly dough together until it sticks and forms balls (still a little crumbly so don't try to roll them) and then gently stamp them with a cookie stamp (you could also press them down with a fork--like I said: forgiving).

The design is a little faint but it's still pretty:

After baking the shortbread should still be pale. If it browns on the bottom it's overdone but still tasty so don't worry about it (I can't recommend good quality air-insulated baking sheets enough!)

Whipped Shortbread

[My notes/changes in brackets]

1 lb (500g) butter [room temperature]
I cup icing/powdered sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla [you can use liquid extract but I use powdered vanilla]
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour [unbleached in my case]
1 cup chopped pecans (optional) [I'm a shortbread purist so I've never made them with the pecans. If you do let me know how they turn out!]

Cream butter and icing sugar until very fluffy. Beat in cornstarch and vanilla. Gradually beat in flour and continue until batter is very fluffy [remember not to stress if it never quite comes together--crumbly dough can easily be pressed together]. Stir in pecans, if using.

Drop batter by spoonfuls [or form into balls and press with a cookie stamp] on ungreased baking sheets [they don't spread much so you can place them fairly close together]. Bake in a 325F oven for 20 to 25 minutes [keep an eye on them so they don't brown].

I ended up with 56 cookies.

Photos by Domicile (except for the shortbread pan)

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