Monday, November 16, 2009

Best-Ever Shortbread

The shortbread cookie is a favorite in my house. What can I say, they love butter! My son could eat it off a spoon if I let him (which I don't). Because it's so well loved I have at least 25 recipes for shortbread, each one claiming to be "the best". It comes from Nancy Silverton's cookbook called Pastries from La Brea Bakery. I was going to skip it until I read her little blurb before the recipe which said basically that: don't skip this recipe just because you think you have enough shortbread recipes. She claims hers is better than all the rest. AND SHE'S RIGHT!!!

The dough is so easy to manage. I did the whole thing in my mixer, refrigerated it overnight and it baked up beautifully, filling my house with the sweet smell of butter. I think the icing sugar is the key to this recipe. I especially like that it doesn't call for corn starch like many other shortbread recipes do.

Some recipes are too crumbly to roll and cut while others are rollable but too moist, losing their flakiness. This one has the best of both worlds. You could easily roll it and cut out shapes or just do as I did - be lazy and make bars. Just let the dough sit on the counter for 10-15 minutes after you take it out of the fridge so it's easier to roll out.

There are some real gems in Nancy's book, such as this recipe and the one for her cinnamon buns - made using a croissant dough. OMG they are to die for.I have a few others bookmarked too for future baking. However, the book lacks pictures and is a little pricier considering how thin it is. Hmmm... quality over quantity? I only wish I had known about her bakery on La Brea Street, L.A. I went to California back in May. I even remember walking on that street! Now looking back I'm kicking myself for missing the chance to try one of her pastries.

Best-Ever Shortbread
20 fingers | Nancy Silverton of La Brea

1 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup icing sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt

In a mixer (with the paddle attachment) cream together butter and sugars.
Combine flour and salt in a separate bowl. Gradually add into butter mixture on low. It should eventually come together into one ball. Turn out onto counter and roll into a ball. Saran wrap it and chill overnight.
The next day, remove from fridge and let sit for 15 minutes before rolling and cutting. (Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Roll out to 3/8" thick and cut into shapes or bars. Bake for 15 minutes then reduce heat to 300 degrees F and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges.
Store airtight.

I got this tip from Cooks Illustrated and it works wonderfully!
When making shortbread (or other cookies) in a round pan, use a small 1" cookie cutter to cut out a circle in the centre of the pan.

This helps avoid the tips of the cookie wedges from crumbling in the centre of the pan when they are cut.


zurin said...

OK I'm going to try this if that is what she said...and your confirmation of it! I love shortbread..the butteryness is to die for :))TQ

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Sobaka said...

I recently discovered your blog, and I really love it. Great stuff!

I tried this recipe the other night, and I am wondering if there is a typo in the baking time. The recipe specifies 15 min. at 350° plus an additional 15-20 at 300°. I took out the tray after the second 15 minutes, and they were dark brown. Another five minutes and they would have been burned. My oven runs cool, so a normal oven would have produced even darker shortbread.

My fault for not checking earlier in the baking process (I had a fleeting thought that the baking time seemed a bit long, but carelessly didn't check on my shortbread at all while it was in the oven). Just thought I'd mention it.

Even with the over-darkening, this shortbread was GOOD. I can't wait to try it again, with a shorter baking time. Maybe five minutes at 350°, followed by 15 at 300°.

I look forward to all your future postings!! Thanks for all the recipes and commentary.


Hi Sobaka, thanks for stopping by! That is strange about the baking time being so off when you tried them. I double checked the recipe from La Brea and the time is correct. Maybe you had them rolled out a little thinner than mine or maybe the rack was higher up in the oven?

Thanks for trying them out and giving me the feedback. Do you have a blog too?

Sobaka said...

Thanks for double checking the recipe! Must be my oven. I always have trouble with cookies spreading too much, and these spread a little bit. Maybe that caused the over-browning. Anyway, I'll definitely try them again and adjust the baking time to fit my oven's quirks!

I don't have a blog, just enjoy other people's. Thank you again!!

Shannon Bailey said...

Hi there! I want to make these tomorrow - they look delicious, and I've loved all your recipes thus far - but I was looking for some clarification on how you cooked them... Did you cut them into bars and then bake them on a sheet or just bake the dough in a springform pan and cut them once out of the oven? It looks like that in the photo but I can't tell.

Tia said...

hi shannon, actually, i did it both ways - in the first photo i cut them into fingers then baked them. in the round/spring form pan I baked the whole thing as a round then cut them while they were still warm (to avoid cracking and crumbling if they cooled first). good luck! let me know how they turn out for you.

Shannon Bailey said...

Thanks! So you'd recommend baking in the round? Did you keep the side on the pan or not? Also were the baking times the same for baking it as one big cookie and as separately cut ones? Sorry for all the questions.. thanks a lot!

Tia said...

i would recommend baking them in the round. they do look nicer, with cleaner-cut edges. i left the side of the springform pan on and just used the tip of a sharp knife to cut them while they were still in the pan with the springform ring on. bake them until they are set - slightly golden on top. it does vary for time because of different ovens, and one large round does take a bit longer than the separate fingers. esthetically they dont look as nice if you overbrown them, but tastewise I secretly prefer them a little browner :)

Shannon Bailey said...

Alright thanks so much! Last question - sorry to bombard you - did the amount of dough you made fill one round perfectly?

Tia said...

I think there was a little extra that is why I made some fingers. I also often double shortbread recipes because they are so good and go so fast. If you press the dough into the pan it should be about 1/2 to 3/4 inches thick, and of course baking time adjusts accordingly. ps. ask as many Q's as you like :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great recipe. I love the idea of making them in the round pan, it makes them nicer to serve. I have to ask, in your post you said that you also have a recipe from the same author for cinnamon buns using croissant rolls, if you could share that it would be great!
Thanks again

Anonymous said...

These look amazing, but did I miss the sugar icing?