There is something so perfect and ageless about shortbread. Nothing trendy or hipster about it, just the most basic, easy recipe and yet it feels sophisticated and posh. There are only three ingredients in shortbread; butter, sugar and flour. I dolled these up with a bit of lavender and lemon, because that is what I had on hand and they are gorgeous together. Shortbread is a great canvas for other flavors. Try adding rosemary, chili powder, thyme, sage, star anise, rose water, or anything else you can dream up.
They are traditionally served with tea, but I just stopped by my friend’s new ice cream shop (Milkjam in Minneapolis) and brought home some outrageous ice cream that was begging to be made into an affogato. If you have never had an affogato, you need to run, not walk, to your coffee/espresso machine, brew up the darkest coffee you can muster and add a scoop of your favorite ice cream. The results are nothing short of miraculous. Add a couple shortbread cookies and you have heaven.
3 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (200g) sugar
Zest of 1 lemon (optional)
5 1/3 cups (650g) all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoons lavender buds (optional – try other herbs and spices if you wish)
1 vanilla bean, scraped or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons lemon juice (more if the dough isn’t coming together into a smooth dough) (optional, but if your dough is looking a little dry, you may want to replace the lemon with some booze or tea or water)
To make the shortbread:
In a small bowl mix the sugar and lemon zest together.
Rub the zest into the sugar, so it really coats the sugar crystals.
Cream the butter and zest/sugar together in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Add the flour, salt, lavender, vanilla and mix until it starts to come together. Add the lemon juice and continue mixing until the dough is smooth.
Dump the dough onto a piece of parchment paper or a silicone mat.
Pat the dough into a smooth rectangle and then roll it under a sheet of plastic
to a 1/4-inch-thick rectangle. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, but this can be done a day ahead.
Preheat oven to 300°F.
Cut the dough into equal size pieces. I did a 10×4 cut, but you can make them any shape or size you want.
Use a fork to score the tops. This doesn’t really do anything, but make a pattern, so you can get more creative if you like.
Spread them out a bit, since they will expand in the oven. Bake for about 20 to 30 minutes. This will depend on the shape and size.
You only want to bake until they are just starting to turn golden on the bottom. They are traditionally very pale.
You can break them apart if they end up touching, or use a knife for a more precise edge.
They need to be totally cooled before they have a snap to them.
Shortbread cookies make a great gift, because they taste awesome and they travel well.
These are off to my aunt for her birthday.
Perfect with tea or affogato or a bowl of ice cream or just on their own.