Yesterday, I found myself wondering what sort of dessert I could make. I knew it had to be something uncomplicated to make and I had to be sure that I had the ingredients on hand. I looked through one of my favorite cookbooks, The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book. Since I had made a cake last week, I wanted to make cookies this week. Searching through the cookbook, I came across many yummy treats but this humble one stood out from all the rest. I had not made shortbread in a few years even though my son is a big fan of Walker’s Shortbread cookies so I knew my search had ended. This is a melt-in-your-mouth, not too sweet kind of shortbread. My step-daughters had never eaten shortbread before but they were addicted to it instantly.
A tip: I recommend that you weigh out your ingredients and be sure that your butter is at 65F when you cream it in the mixer.
Adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book
Do not substitute granulated sugar for the powdered sugar in the dough or the cookies will be tough; on the other hand, granulated sugar is the best choice for sprinkling on top the shortbread just before it goes in to the oven.
2 1/4 cups (11 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup (2 ounces) powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1. Whisk the flour and salt together in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, beat the butter and powdered sugar together with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 6 minutes, scraping down the bowl and beaters as needed. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly mix in the flour mixture until combined, about 30 seconds.
2. Using your hands, press the dough into a ball in the bowl. transfer the dough to a clean, lightly floured counter and knead until it is very smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes. Press the dough into a round disk, then place it on top of a piece of parchment paper and roll out into a 9-inch circle, about 1/2 inch thick.
3. Transfer the dough and parchment to a baking sheet. Crimp the edges of the shortbread like a pie and then poke the dough all over with a fork (be sure to poke all of the way through to the baking sheet to prevent the dough from puffing up as it bakes). Using a small knife, and score into 16 wedges. (Don’t cut all the way through the dough.) Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough for 20 minutes.
4. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 300 degrees. Sprinkle the granulated sugar evenly over the dough. Bake the shortbread until pale golden brown, 40 to 45 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking.
5. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and, using a sharp chef’s knife, cut through the scored marks to separate the wedges. Let cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving, about 1 hour. (Be sure to cut the wedges while the shortbread is still warm otherwise it will crumble.)
To Make Ahead
The shortbread dough can be prepared through step 3, covered with plastic wrap, and refrigerated for up to 24 hours; bake as directed.