Alice Medrich is an outstanding cookbook author and chocolatier. One of her cookbooks is called Cookies and Brownies. She has the very best shortbread cookie recipe and it is super easy. I get many compliments on this shortbread. It is my go-to cookie when I need something that requires no effort but yields rich results. I love that I only melt the butter and add a few ingredients and then refrigerate overnight. The next day, just pop it in the oven for an hour and you have the most amazing shortbread ever. It keeps well so I can ship it or make it ahead a few days. There are variations on the recipe which are very good also. But just the basic shortbread is the best in my opinion. Runner-up is my chai-spiced rum variety.
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons extra sugar, for sprinkling after baking (raw sugar is good for this)
Prepare a 9-inch round or 8-inch square pan, or a 9 1/2-inch fluted tart pan by greasing or lining with foil.
Cut the butter into chunks and melt in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar, vanilla, and salt. Add the flour and mix with a wooden spoon just until incorporated. Pat and spread the dough evenly in the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight, no longer than two days.
Preheat the oven to 300° F. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven. (Do not prick the dough.) Bake the shortbread for 65 to 75 minutes (a few minutes less if using the tart pan), or until well browned and dark brown at the edges. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the extra sugar. While still hot, use a thin sharp knife to cut the shortbread into squares, wedges, oblongs, or triangles. Makes 16 large or 32 small pieces.
Be careful to not remove the shortbread too soon from the oven. Underbaked shortbread is dry and crunchy at the edges but doughy in the middle. If this happens, put the pieces on a cookie sheet and return to the oven for 15 minutes at 300° F. If you are unsure about baking long enough, this trick will work very well.
Store airtight for a week or two.
Rum-Chai-Spiced Shortbread: Add 1 tablespoon golden rum and 3/4 teaspoon chai spice.
Brown Sugar Shortbread: Substitute light or dark brown sugar for half to all of the granulated sugar. (Rum-Chai-Spiced works with brown sugar also.)
Walnut or Nut Shortbread: Any nut you care for may be used. Decrease flour to 1 1/4 cups. Add 1/2 cup nut pieces to the flour and pulse in a food processor until the nuts are finely ground. Proceed with the basic recipe.
Bourbon Pecan Shortbread: Make Nut Shortbread, using pecans, substituting brown sugar for granulated sugar, and add 1 tablespoon bourbon with the vanilla.