Friday, October 27, 2017

Halloween Shortbread

And here I thought I knew shortbread. Ha! Last summer I was rambling through the weekly Skibbereen Farmers Market and happened upon a booth I hadn’t seen there before. Its banner said “Susan’s Sweet Factory” but let me tell you, I could smell the butter long before I saw the sign. It’s fairly new—founded by two women last year. Of course I made a beeline for it, and bought some shamrock shortbread cookies to take home to the cottage.

Susan's shamrocks (they didn't last long!)
I didn’t eat any until I got back, but one bite and I was in love. They were light and sweet and you could taste the good Irish butter. They also held together surprisingly well, considering how light they were, even when packaged in bags. I went back to that booth the following week and bought more.

No, I didn’t beg for a recipe, but I found an important clue reading their website ( the shortbread cookies had cornstarch in them. I’d never heard of that, but when I started looking online for recipes for Irish shortbread, cornstarch was used regularly. As usual, between the Internet and my collection of Irish cookbooks I found plenty of recipes—but no two were the same. 

Which is ridiculous since there are usually only four ingredients in the shortbread: flour, sugar, butter and cornstarch. It was the proportions that varied among the recipes. So of course I had to try at least one, and I went with the simplest version. If that’s a bust, I’ll just have to try again (poor me!).

Irish Shortbread


2 sticks (1 cup) salted butter, softened 
(I use Kerrygold for almost everything these days)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cornstarch


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Cream together the butter and the sugar.

Sift together the flour and cornstarch.

Mix together the ingredients until they hold together (if they seem too dry, add a bit more soft butter). Form into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap (or use a plastic bag) and refrigerate for half an hour or more.

Roll out about 1/4 inch thick on a lightly floured surface and cut into shapes. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, and bake for 20 minutes. Do not allow to brown around the edges—they should be a pale gold.

You might have noticed that my cookies are colored orange and green. I divided my dough into two batches and colored each before chilling. [I discovered that it’s kind of hard to distribute liquid food coloring in dry ingredients. I subsequently discovered that after letting what little dough was left over sit overnight, the color dispersed quite nicely. I’m going to have to think about that.)

They didn’t turn out quite as light as Susan’s version, but I’ll be happy to keep trying.

And those of you who are serious gardeners—okay, the leaves don’t look like pumpkin leaves. At least I didn’t use the oak-leaf cutter. If you must, pretend they’re weeds that sneaked into the pumpkin patch.

Oh yes, the book. A Late Frost (Orchard Mystery #11) takes place in February, just about the dullest month of the year in rural Granford, Massachusetts. So of course there's an unexpected death for Meg and Seth to investigate.

Find it for pre-order at Amazon and Barnes and Noble (it won't be released in print until November 7th). As of this writing it seems to be on sale at both places, so check it out on Friday.


  1. I love Kerrygold butter and shortbread, so this recipe is a winner. I don't think I've added 1 whole cup of cornstarch to any recipe before!

  2. I know what you mean. The amounts given in recipes range from 1/4 cup up to a whole cup, but it's hard to figure out the size of the whole recipe. I'll be happy to work on it more--or just ask the baker!

  3. Yes! Please keep working on this recipe until you declare it perfect. I like the leaves. Weeds get in everywhere.

  4. Do let us know if you try other proportions. I've seen recipes with cornstarch, but I thought it was a smaller amount.
    Butter and sugar? So tasty!
    Shortbread is often rather heavy, albeit, tasty. The idea of a lighter version is terrific.