Shortbread, Three Ways

Added on by Caroline Zhang.
Shortbread, Three Ways | Pass the Cocoa
Scottish Shortbread | Pass the Cocoa

I actually made these cookies way back at the beginning of the semester, for a housewarming party my roommates and I had (we were super lucky with our senior year housing--and only had two cockroaches this year so far!)

My roommate Imani and I both have the same compulsive fear of underfeeding people and running out of food, so we made a huge batch of shortbread cookie dough (and then ran out last minute to buy chocolate and fruit, because we were convinced people would starve). One of the things I love most about shortbread (besides its wonderful buttery texture and flavor) is that it's so wonderfully adaptable. With minimal effort, you can transform a single batch of dough into a multitude of impressive cookie varieties. Which means, of course, that it's perfect for the holidays.  

 I used this dough to make some pretty classic jam sandwich cookies (which you've probably seen severaltimesbefore), thumbprint cookies with a lemon twist, and traditional Scottish shortbread (well, not so traditional, because I added both egg and cornstarch).

Jam Sandwich Cookies | Pass the Cocoa
Shortbread, Three Ways | Pass the Cocoa
Scottish Shortbread | Pass the Cocoa

This dough is delicious and so easy to put together. I rarely make a recipe multiple times, but this is one of my favorite go-to recipes. Unlike traditional shortbread or sable cookies, I added an egg yolk for extra softness and cornstarch to create a more tender dough. There are really just three tips for success:

  1.  Be very thorough when beating together the butter and sugar. The sugar crystals aerate the butter, creating a more flaky and tender cookie.
  2. However, once you add the flour, do not over-mix or over-knead. Add the dry ingredient, and mix until it barely comes together in a dough. Handling the dough to much will develop the gluten in the flour, which will create a very tough cookie. 
  3. Make sure the dough is very cold when you put it in the oven. The temperature difference of the hot oven and the cold dough will help create a buttery shortbread.

These cookies make a perfect last-minute holiday dessert platter; you can make cookies that look dainty and unique and different from each other, all from one dough. In fact, looking at these pictures, I think I might whip up another batch tomorrow for Christmas...

Have a wonderful holiday season! 

With love,
Caroline and Monica

Shortbread, Three Ways
Click here for the printer-friendly recipe

Basic Shortbread Dough

Yields: 1 batch, or about 18 cookies (Quadruple this to make all three cookie varieties)

½ cup unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup plus 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
⅛ teaspoon salt

Whisk together the butter and sugar until it is a very pale, light, and fluffy, about 5 minutes with an electric mixer, longer if you’re doing it by hand. Whisk in the egg yolk and vanilla. 

Fold in the cornstarch, flour, and salt until just combined. Do not over mix.

Chill the dough for at least one hour, or up to overnight.

Scottish Shortbread

Yields: 24 large cookies, or 36 small cookies

2 batches of basic shortbread dough
2 tablespoon granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Divide the cookie dough into 6 equal pieces. Press the dough into 6 mini 4 ½ -inch tart pans. If you don’t have tart pans, pat the dough into rounds about 4 ½ inches in diameter on a cookie sheet.

Prick the dough with a fork, and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Cut each round into 4 equal pieces, or 6 pieces for smaller cookies. Chill for about 30 minutes.

Place the tart pans onto a cookie sheet, and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges.

Let cool and serve.

Lemon Curd Thumbprint Cookies

Yields: about 18 cookies

1 batch shortbread dough
½ cup sunflower seeds (can be substituted with finely chopped nuts)
⅓ cup lemon curd (can be substituted with jam)

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Pour the sunflower seeds into a small bowl or plate.

Roll the dough into 1 ½ - inch balls. Roll the dough balls in the sunflower seeds and placed onto a greased cookie sheet, or a cookie sheet lined with foil. Place the cookies about 2 inches apart.

Use your thumb to indent  the center of the cookie, make a well for the curd filling later.

Bake the cookies for 15-18 minutes, or until slightly golden around the edges. Let cool.

Place about 1 teaspoon of lemon curd into the center of each cookie.

Jam Sandwich Cookies

Yields: about 12 cookies

1 batch shortbread dough
⅓ cup jam

Place the dough onto a sheet of parchment paper, and pat into a flat disk. Cover with another piece of parchment paper, and roll the dough with a rolling pin until about ⅛ inch thick.

Place the dough onto a cookie sheet, and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 F

Using an (approximately) 3-inch heart cookie cutter, cut out 24 hearts from the dough. With half of the cookies, use a mini heart cookie cutter to punch out the centers. When you re-roll the scraps, follow the same process of rolling the dough between the parchment paper and refrigerate for about an hour.

Place the cookie on greased cookie sheets, or cookie sheets lined with parchment paper, about 1 inch apart.

Bake the cookies, using separate cookie sheets for ones with the centers and ones without the centers. Bake the ones with centers for 15-18 minutes, and the ones without the centers for 12-15 minutes, or until they are slightly golden around the edges. 

Let cool completely. Turn the cookies with the centers upside down, and spread about 1 teaspoon jam on each of them. Top with one of the cookies without centers.