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Shortbread Cookies

July 26, 2009

Chocolate chips, raisins, nuts and other ingredients can add an entirely different taste to a cookie, changing the way it crumbles in your mouth or how its flavors meld with every bite. Who doesn’t like biting into a gooey morsel of semi-sweet chocolate or the burst of a raisin with hints of cinnamon and cloves in their cookie? Sometimes, though, it’s nice to have a simple, stripped down cookie with no fancy chocolates or exotic nuts to contend with its delicate sweetness.

I made these cookies once for a movie night with some friends and they were a hit. One of them said that it was like eating crunchy butter, which isn’t at first very palatable to think about but is definitely a good description for how these shortbread cookies taste. The dough is simple to make, though perhaps a bit difficult to work with, using only butter, sugar, flour, vanilla extract, and salt. The smell of these cookies and the dough is very indicative of their taste, simply sweet and buttery.

Each bite is crisp with a satisfying snap, breaking away from an airy cookie that’s fragrant of butter, sugar, and vanilla. The simple flavors of the ingredients come together with each bite that’s sweet and definitely buttery. The hint of vanilla in the background brings it all together and, if anything, if you could simply turn butter into a cookie, it would taste just like this.

Shortbread Cookies

Shortbread Cookies

Shortbread Cookies, from Ina Garten


3/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature (3 sticks)
1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

3. Roll the dough 1/2-inch thick and cut with a 3 by 1-inch finger-shaped cutter. Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature. Makes about 20 cookies.


I’ve made these cookies twice now and both times they’ve turned out great. However, the dough, I’ve found, is a little difficult to work with. It comes out rather dry and crumbly so you might have some trouble working with it to shape the cookies. The time in the refrigerator definitely helps a bit with making the dough more cohesive. Despite its crumbly texture, the dough is also sticky so be sure to work on a floured surface.

While a bit of a hassle to make for me, they’re still definitely worth the trouble. The original recipe calls for them to be drizzled with a chocolate sauce but I like these cookies plain so I can taste the sweet butteriness that make these cookies a favorite in my family (particularly my grandfather). These go great with some jam or plain with a warm cup of tea!

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