Saturday, December 18, 2010

Shortbreads--My Favorite Holiday Cookies

Shortbreads are not exactly what I had for Christmas most of my life, but they are my favorite cookies. Now you can buy the original Scottish shortbreads everywhere. They are so perfect and smell with real butter that, when I make mine at home, I look for the exact taste of the shortbreads from the original checkered tin box.

Years ago, they were not as widely available outside the British Isles, so after I left England I was happy to find this recipe in a Good Housekeeping magazine, as their incredible taste was haunting me. The recipe worked very well for me and I hope my shortbreads taste similar to those that are made in noble Scottish homes.

The secret of the shortbreads lies in the butter. The old-fashioned rich yellow butter is what you need to make them taste great. Unfortunately, it is not so easy to find it in the US, where average butter is rather pale and watery. Shortbreads made with supermarket butter will still be delicious, but they will not have this milky/buttery flavor, as they do when they are made with true farmers butter. So if you want to make them taste best, it is worth investing in a good quality butter. Today, I made them with Keller's butter, but next time I am thinking about trying the imported Irish butter.

Besides their great taste, shortbreads are nut free and are safe for a kids party. They also store well in cookie containers, so if you make a big batch of them they will be good for weeks or even months.

You can make them small and round, by slicing a dough log, which is an easy option, or make this traditional big round cookie and cut it into triangles. When making them, add a pinch of good quality sea salt to accentuate their buttery taste, and sprinkle them with sugar at the end.


2 sticks good quality unsalted butter,
2 1/4 cup plain white (wheat) flour,
1/2 cup sugar, plus 1 tbsp extra,
1/2 cup rice flour,
pinch of sea salt.

1. In a large bowl mix together wheat flour, rice flour, and sugar.
2. Add butter to the bowl. Working with fingers make crumbs and gradually knead them into a smooth dough.
3. Form a dough into a log about 2 inch thick and cut it into 1/4 inch thick slices, or make a traditional big flat cookie, cut it into triangles, and poke it with a fork or bamboo stick.

4. Preheat oven to 330 F, and place the cookies on the buttered baking tin.
5. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until pale gold.
6. Cool down and sprinkle with sugar.