Shortbread Cookies

In truth, I am not particularly skilled when it comes to cookies. To the disappointment and regret of both my and Alexis’ stomachs, I have previously made notoriously bad biscuits (a.k.a cookies if you aren’t British or haven’t, like us, been consuming unhealthy servings of the Great British Baking show). The butter always seeps out and leave a wafer thin biscuit that approaches a caramel crisp. In an attempt to be delectably creative, I have in the past made “salted chocolate” cookies that were, in a word, inedible. However, with Christmas approaching and the urge to churn out adorable, uniform, and decorate-able cookies at an all time high (to tide over Saint Nick on his trip) I went to the kitchen and whipped, shaped, and baked until these came out. They are deliciously buttery, just sweet enough, with an extremely satisfying snap and crumble that the name shortbread demands. 

Prep Time: 10 minutes plus 30 minutes resting
Cook Time: 25-30 minutes

This recipe will make 20 2 by 2 inch cookies

For the Cookie Dough:

1 cup Butter, softened

3/4 cup Sugar

1 tablespoon Milk

1/4 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

2 cups Flour

3/4 cup Cornstarch

Pinch of Salt

1/4-1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)

The Cooking of the Cookies:

  1. Whip the softened butter and the sugar together till the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and then the milk a teaspoon at a time (three teaspoons per one tablespoon). If you can find it, raw sugar gives these a really lovely taste in the end. You will taste the sugar itself in the cookie, not just sweetness, and so the addition of raw sugar brings a darker, more complex flavor to the mix. Plain white sugar works just as well, brown sugar would be too wet and create sticky cookies that don’t snap.
  2. Sift in the cornstarch and flour, add the salt, and then mix to combine with a wooden spoon or spatula. This will not be as wet as you might be used to with cookie dough, don’t worry if the flour and cornstarch don’t fully incorporate as you stir. If you have made biscuits from scratch before, it will be closer to that dough. This is why it is extremely important that you sift in the dry components, with so little liquid, the odds of you beating/whisking out any clumps of flour or cornstarch are low. You might be thinking that cornstarch is an unusual ingredient for cookies, but it’s key to that snap. 
  3. Turn your shaggy cookie dough onto a well floured surface and knead with your hands to bring everything together. The warmth from your fingers will melt the butter slightly and create additional moisture to absorb the dry ingredients, so if it first it may seem that not everything will combine, don’t sweat; just keep kneading. If you like, about halfway through the kneading process (as the dough starts to come together), add the chocolate chips and knead them in. As soon as everything does come together and you can shape the dough into a single ball, stop handling the dough. If you warm the butter too much, you’ll end up with a greasy dough and ugly cookies. 
  4. Using a rolling pin, and keeping everything well floured, roll your dough into a sheet 3/8-1/2 an inch thick. Cut and shape how you like, trimming the edges to get a good, sharp edge on the biscuit. Place on a baking sheet that has been buttered or covered in parchment paper, and set in the fridge to rest and firm up. If you don’t chill your dough for at least 30 minutes prior to baking, the butter will make a run for it and you’ll be left with flat, sad cookies sitting in butter puddles, mocking you. 
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the cookies have just started to brown on the edges and the center feels firm. These will stay fairly pale and white, so don’t wait till they have gone golden or else the sugar will crystallize and you’ll have weirdly crunchy cookies. Let them cool for a few minutes so they have a chance to firm up, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Ha ha! I have triumphed against my arch nemesis. I can’t begin to describe how pleased I was when I made the first batch of these and they weren’t terrible. Or how, after tweaks and adjustments, and a few more trials, I got these cookies to be wonderfully crumbly and buttery. They could use a chocolate bath or maybe some icing sugar decoration, but I rather like the look of them all by their lonesome, demanding that you at minimum nibble off a corner. They’re absolutely delicious and devourable, without being too sweet, too salty, or too buttery (the three reasons I usually don’t like cookies) and if anyone else leaves a batch of these out for Christmas, I’m sure the fat red man with the white beard will be delighted.  

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