As I have grown, my tastes have evolved, and I have grown to love, love, love butter. Which is why I love, love, love shortbread. A good shortbread should highlight its ingredients (butter, vanilla, a tiny head of salt) by striking the perfect balance of sweet and savory.
The problem with shortbread--at least the stuff you buy in the grocery store--is that it is often quite dry.
epicurious.com, was created by Ming Tsai. It is definitely not dry. Indeed, it's so butterylicious and melt-in-your-mouth-yum, that it's hard to resist eating a whole batch in one sitting. The key is good ingredients: splurge on good butter, real vanilla bean, make sure your flour is fresh.
One of the great advantages of this recipe is that it's an icebox cookie. You make the dough (which comes together in a flash in a stand mixer, but is doable without), roll it into logs, and refrigerate. You can then take the logs out one by one and slice/bake. Voila! Freshly baked cookies every night of the week. You can even freeze the logs for a couple of weeks, making this a great cookie to have on hand for unexpected guests.
1 1/2 c. unsalted butter, room temp.
1 1/3 c. sugar
2 tsp. kosher salt
3 egg yolks
2 Tbs. vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean (just the stuff you scrape from inside the bean)
3 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
additional sugar, colored sugar, or sprinkles for the top of the cookies
In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine butter, sugar, and salt. Cream on medium speed about 2 minutes (until well blended). One by one, add egg yolks, then vanilla extract and bean scrapings, beating after each addition until combined.
Turn off the mixer and add the flour. Turn the mixer on low and allow to run until the flour is completely combined (but no longer or your cookies will be tough). Divide dough into four pieces, rolling each into a log just over 1 inch in diameter. Wrap each log and chill (at least 2 hours, up to several days).
Preheat oven to 325. Line baking sheet with silpat. Cut logs of dough into 1/2 inch thick rounds, dipping the top of each into sugar, colored sugar, or sprinkles. Arrange on baking sheet and bake 15 - 20 minutes, until set but not coloring. Cool on wire rack and try not to eat them all yourself!