Short & Sweet
It is the simplest of cookies. The shortbread. With a minimum amount of ingredients it seems as though all the players shine on this team: the richness of the butter, the subtle sweetness of the sugar and the flour holding it all together. Yes, this is a GOOD team. One that melts in your mouth after each initial delicate crunchy bite.
But don’t write this cookie off as being boring. It is a blank canvas for a multitude of flavors–sweet or savory. To name a few sweet: add zest, crystalized ginger, toasted finely chopped nuts, or just sandwich them with a jam or lemon curd. And as for the savory; black pepper, fennel seeds, caraway seeds, sesame seeds (personal favorite) or finely chopped herbs. Make them however you would like–they are delicious. And if you have any extras that you don’t want hanging around (although they go quick here in my house!) then grind them up and use them a crumb crust or break them into pieces for an ice cream topping. Or you could just eat them : )
Vanilla Bean Shortbread
2 cups All Purpose flour
1T Rice Flour
1t kosher salt
1 cup 10X confectioners sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
Combine the all purpose flour, rice flour and salt. Cream the butter until smooth. sift the 10x sugar to get out any lumps. If you don’t have a sifter, you can use a strainer, a mesh colander, whisk it with a whisk or just don’t sift at all. Add the sugar gradually to the butter and blend until light and fluffy. Add the scraped bean pulp and blend well. Sift the flour mixture (if no sifter, see above!). Add it to the creamed mixture and mix until just combined. Scrape mixture onto a large sheet of plastic wrap. Fold up sides and flatten dough into a large flat disk. Chill until cool, about 1 hour. Alternately you can immediately roll the dough between two Silpat baking mats or waxed/parchment paper and chill in a flat sheet. In this case, the dough will chill much faster.
Once the dough is chilled, roll it out to a final thickness between two SIlpats or waxed/parchment paper, about 1/4 inch is what is shown. Cut into desired shape and place onto a parchment lined baking sheet. If the dough is too soft, move dough and paper to the refrigerator to firm up. If you don’t feel like you can move them to the baking sheet with your hands (those of you with good circulation!!), use a metal offset spatula. Gather any scraps and re-roll in the same manner as above.
Once you have cut the desired shapes, place the baking sheet in the refrigerator for a few moments (cold dough will allow the cookies to hold their shape in the oven).
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325 F. Bake the chilled cookies until golden brown and delicious (or GBD as we say!), about 10 minutes. The centers can remain on the pale side. Cool and devour.
Helpful Hints from A. Cook: If you don’t have rice flour, just omit it! If you don’t have a vanilla bean, use extract or another flavoring! If you don’t have a sifter (or any of the other suggestions) just don’t sift!
Relax! It’s just baking….