original post updated 6/4/09
Shortbread cookies are a sinful, indulgent obsession of mine. Buttery and flaky, crisp and crumbly are the best. I’ve tried many recipes and finally settled on the one below. I received it from a blogging friend you suggested I give it a try, as it came from her Scottish grandfather.
The recipe immediately struck a chord with me due to its use of corn starch, and a lot of it! I’ve never seen corn starch used in this manner and approached the recipe with skepticism. However, as one commenter notes below:
“I am both thankful and regretful for food blogs like this one. Thankful because I’ve taken so many amazing recipes from people all over the world. Regretful, though, because my own recipes which to this point have remained well-kept family secrets are being spread like viruses. Corn Starch in shortbread has been a vital, “secret” ingredient in my family’s recipe for decades.”
I decided to give it a try one afternoon and planned my day around baking the shortbread. I had laid out the butter to reach room temperature before I left the house and headed off to the dentist for my annual teeth cleaning. Somehow, I managed to tweak my back in the dentist chair and returned home to slowly lose the ability to turn my torso or neck without twinges of pain.
I wasn’t about to let any spinal issues come between me and baking. I was determined that the show must go on.
To add one more challenge, my printer wasn’t cooperating, so I had to scribble the recipe down on a post-it note. I love recipes that can fit on such a small square! It got me to thinking that maybe I should write a post-it note cookbook, filled with only those recipes that can fit on a 3″x3″ piece of paper!
adapted from Geggie
1 cup sugar (granulated)
2 cups corn starch
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 pinch salt
1 lb. butter, at room temperature
1 Tablespoon sugar (granulated)
- Add sugar, corn starch, flour and salt to a large mixing bowl.
- Cut butter into tablespoon sized pieces and add to the bowl
- Using a spoon or your hands, mix the butter into the dry ingredients
- When the butter is fully integrated, the mix will be sand-like in texture. It will not form a ‘dough’. Pour the mixture into a half-sheet pan (18″ x 12″ x 1″), spreading evenly in the pan. Use your hands to firmly press down on the dough, pushing the fine mixture into an even mass.
- Using a fork, prick the cookies about 1″ apart across the entire top.
- Bake for 40 minutes at 325F, then reduce heat to 300F and continue baking for 20 minutes, or until lightly golden brown around edges and across the center.
- Remove from oven and sprinkle with 1 Tablespoon sugar. Cool for 10 minutes before cutting with a sharp knife. Let cookies continue to cool before removing (if you can resist).
Since this recipe makes a large batch of cookies, start with a large mixing bowl. I didn’t do this and I made a mess (shhh, don’t tell Joe). The corn starch is the key to this recipe (I think) — I haven’t ever seen this before. I think it helps to give the lightness to the shortbread. It’s powdery so begin stirring gently or else you’ll be wearing most of it. (seriously, I made a big mess)
I quickly bypassed a spoon and dove into the ingredients with my hands. Just begin squishing and squishing the butter until it combines with the dry ingredients. Make sure to get any flour hiding at the bottom of your bowl. When you feel the ingredients are well integrated, then place the crumbly mix onto a baking sheet. I used a half-sheet pan and it fit perfectly.
Use your hands to push the dough into place. I found it hard to get an even surface so I busted out a small rolling pin to run over the top. Hopefully, Geggie isn’t cringing by this. As she notes, use a fork to prick holes all over the top. I assume this is to help release any steam from within the dough as it bakes.
Bake for 40 minutes at 325, then reduce heat to 300 and continue baking for 20 minutes. I baked as noted but mine took a bit over an hour. Likely, this was due to me peeking at them with the oven door open. I’m not patient. And, the smell is so amazing that you can’t help but to peek at what’s going on. When they came out of the oven I dusted with granulated sugar. I only waited about 5 minutes before trying to cut them and it seemed to work perfectly.
As the knife slid effortlessly through the shortbread it made the most joyous sound, you could hear the crisp layers of shortbread snapping under the weight of the knife. I tried to remain steady and calm but that wave of ‘oh, my god this is gonna be good’ kept wafting over me. Due to this, some of my lines aren’t too straight but that just gives it more character.
My past experiences with some recipes is that the dough doesn’t seem crispy or done all the way through. You’ll have crispy edges and top, but the center is less than desirable. Not the case here. You’ll notice how the golden brown color extends all the way through from top to bottom. These little guys are crisp and tender, buttery and rich.
I’ve received alot of emails and comments about this recipe, often with skepticism. I have not tried this recipe with any substitutions or in other baking pans, so only do so with caution.
- The amount of corn starch looks insane. It’s accurate, try not to second-guess it.
- When mixing the dry ingredients with the butter, the end result will be a sand-like texture. Don’t expect it to form into a dough. As long as the butter is finely integrated and evenly mixed with the dry ingredients, all will be ok.
- This recipe is not appropriate for shaped cookies. You should plan to bake on a flat sheet.
- The batch is large and I baked in a half-sheet baking pan, which is 18″ x 12″ x 1″. The cookies were about 1/2-3/4″ thick. If you use a pan with high sides (like 3″), you may notice that the cookies do not get evenly browned/baked. A short-sided sheet will work best.
- Since the mixture is sand-like, pour it into your pan then spread into an even layer. Use your hands to press it down firmly and evenly.