Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Shortbread

I call it "Christmas Shortbread" because Scotch Shortbread is so amazingly scrumptious that I only allow myself to make it at Christmas time.

Shortbread is the ur-cookie: stripped down to the barest essentials of butter, flour, sugar.

A few years ago I was part of a Christmas cookie exchange. A week or so later, my friend Melissa Adams commented that next to the fancy-looking iced and chocolate-coated offerings, the shortbread didn't look like much. But as the flashier cookies disappeared her husband Sam tried the shortbread and cried out, "You've been holding out on me!"

1 cup butter, softened (226g)
1/2 cup sugar (some prefer to use powdered but regular is fine)
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt

Cream the butter, then add the sugar and beat very smooth. Then add the flour and salt. It may seem dry at first, but continue stirring until there is very little loose flour, then with clean, dry hands knead briefly in the bowl until it comes together as a smooth ball of dough.

Break the ball in half and roll each half into a ball. Then flatten onto a floured board to make a circle about 7-8" in diameter, 1/2" thick. Transfer each round to an ungreased cookie sheet. Using a fork, pierce as shown:
Pierce the dough additionally to allow steam to vent (I make a simple, star-like design). Bake 275 degrees F (135C) for 30-35 minutes, till golden around the edges. Let cool. No, it isn't one giant cookie, you break it into triangles to eat.

If you want to go a little fancier, serve shortbread with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream and some raspberry or strawberry syrup (idea compliments of Shirley Bubar).