shortbread

shortbread plated

I might have over done it with the hole poking. Biscuits cooled for just a few minutes and cut beautifully. It's like they wanted to be cut. Lifted out of the pan with no problem. No spray, no parchment paper, no nuthin'.

shortbread cooling

Two Christmases ago I was given a gigantic tin of Scottish shortbread, at least that's what the packaging said. They're packaged separately inside the tin according to shape, they're all the same thing, just different shapes. I am now on my last package so I decided to give it a go. This is an experimental half batch. A full batch takes a pound of butter and is spread out on a restaurant type sheet pan. Originally I put this amount of dough in the same kind of pan pictured above except 1/2 again as large. Judging by the mass of dough It seemed the biscuits would be too thin so I switched. I probably should have used it, as these are way thick. The dough is like wet sand. I didn't mess around with creaming the butter and sugar, rather I just dumped all the ingredients into a Cuisinart and let 'er rip.

* ½ cup sugar
* 1 cup corn starch
* 2 cups flour
* pinch of salt
* ½ pound butter
* more sugar to sprinkle top

Low heat. 40 minutes at 325℉ + 30 minutes at 300℉. (varies depending on thickness and your own preference)

Here is where one needs to use real butter, and the best to be found since there are so few ingredients it's imperative to be selective otherwise there'd be little point. I used more than a pinch of salt because all my butter is unsalted (salt in butter covers lack of freshness, unsalted butter must be managed with greater care).
A person could probably get fat by eating all this, but I'm going to go ahead and risk it.

My only alterations were to substitute ¼ cup brown sugar and ¾ cup whole wheat flour. Some recipes I read call for confectioners sugar. That sounds like a good idea too.

Apparently cornstarch is the big secret to great shortbread. Bittman instructs to use cornstarch in How to Cook Everything, but only a small percentage of online recipes call for it. I almost didn't use it because of that, but I'm glad I did. It does seem a weird ingredient, but it's the thing that makes them truly excellent and all the rest not excellent. I can see what the corn starch does to these, thick as they are, they positively dissolve in your mouth, and by "your" of course I mean "mine."

A little bit off topic, but not really. Know what kills me? I'm serious, this totally kills me: I'm reading reviews for cookbooks on Amazon to see if I want to buy one so I go to the 1 star reviews first to see what people complain about. Low reviews are always more interesting and usually more informative than good reviews plus they're more fun, but every now and then you get one that makes it clear the problem lies with the reviewer and not the thing being reviewed. Tonight I must have read some 75 or so reviews for about 10 different books and building up a wish list on Amazon to look at again later. I'm just estimating. A couple of times women said, "I've been baking for 40 years but every recipe I tried in this book turned out terribly. My family wouldn't even finish it so I had to throw it out. At first I thought it was just a fluke so I tried it again and it was still terrible! This book is the worst." Then another one goes, "I've been baking for 40 years and some of the recipes in this book didn't even have baking temperatures. Now, how am I supposed to know how to make something without complete instructions?" Ha ha ha ha ha ha. What a bunch of loons. It kills me that bakers fail to apply their intuition acquired from 40 years of baking to new situations then become embittered and complain publicly about the results as if those recipes were holy writ or chiseled in stone, and not mere suggestion.

You can go crazy with this and I probably will. Cocoa. Coat with chocolate. Pistachios. Oat flour -- muy authentico (grind oatmeal in the coffee mill). Raisins, prunes, craisins, dates, figs, coconut probably, cinnamon, candied ginger or regular ginger, or powder, lemon peal, anise, cardamon, almonds, ground almond. My own whole wheat is exceptional here. I'm eating one with tea right now, just like Queen Elizabeth I, look, my little pinkie is sticking out. Yes, I'm going to make these again too. * clutches tea cup to chest * "As God is mah witness, I shall nevah be shortbreadless agi-yun.

3 comments:

Avierra said...

Those look deliciously buttery. And while they might be thicker than is traditional, that also doesn't look to be such a bad thing. Tradition is all very well in its place, but sometimes dispensing with it is even better. Did you use a European style butter, or a good-quality American style?

I bet they are amazing with a cup of tea, or some good coffee.

Chip Ahoy said...

Avierra, I used grocery store butter by a local dairy. I figured that stood the greatest chance of being freshest and least handled.

I forgot to mention to chill the mixture for about 20 minutes after it's packed into the pan and before baking. I think that helps the butter set properly.

I pretty much have my mind set to do this again with different flavors.

Joan said...

Some recipes call for confectioner's sugar because it has that crucial cornstarch in it.

I've never made shortbread with regular sugar but now I'm tempted to try it, using cornstarch too of course. I use the recipe from the Fanny Farmer Baking Book, it has never failed to be melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Plugra, if you can get it, is an ideal butter to use here.

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