Thursday, April 12, 2012

Easy Shortbread for Now and Later

I don't know about y'all, but I grew up eating margarine.  In fact most of my grandma's recipes call for oleo rather than butter, and I thought of butter as something you ate if you didn't have access to Parkay.

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.

This recipe, which I grabbed from, 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.

Icebox Shortbread

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!


Wendy is the author of the Mysteries a la Mode. Visit her on the web or on Facebook. She also writes the Pet Boutique Mysteries under the name Annie Knox; you can follow Annie on Facebook, too!


  1. How can you go wrong with a recipe is little more than butter, sugar and flour? Heaven!

    I once ate at Ming Tsai's Blue Ginger restaurant in Wellesley MA (a guilty treat!). I impressed the wait person by figuring out what the mystery ingredient in the chocolate cookies was: (drumroll) ginger!

  2. Yum! I think ginger and chocolate go really well together. Completely jealous that you got to eat at Ming Tsai's restaurant. The foodie in me wants to eat at all the celeb-chef restaurants!

  3. I really need the patience and the equipment to bake these cookies. They do look delicious.

  4. Wendy, I was the exact opposite. It was butter, butter, butter when I was growing up. We used it for sauteing, baking, well, everything! Oddly enough I've never been super fond of shortbread. Mostly because, as you just said, it can be a bit dry. I'll have to try this recipe. Sounds like it might change my mind about shortbread.

    ~ Krista

  5. Dru - a regular hand mixer works just fine!

  6. Really, Wendy? Did I need to see this today? When I'd just decided that I would be strong and turn my back on the leftover chocolate from Easter? That I would say no to everything involving carbs? Now? Today you post this delightful and easy recipe for shortbread! I love shortbread.

    Looks like I won't be svelte anytime soon...


  7. Ah, Julie. My apologies. Yes, it's terribly addictive. But if you make more than four logs and store them in the freezer, you don't have to eat huge batches at a time. :)

  8. oh my gosh, I'm salivating...tomorrow I make these!