Wednesday, December 7, 2011

whipped shortbread

Sadly, this is going to be the only entry in my Christmas cookie baking this year. Well, I might try my hand at some gingerbread, but I'm definitely not going to make a bunch of cookie samples to give out as gifts. That's only because I'm more likely to eat half of them myself. Hello. I have no willpower.

I thought a small package of shortbread cookies would be a nice gift for the Greek parents (especially in light of all the jam they sent us earlier this year), so I found this cute little tin (at the thrift store) for them to travel in. The shortbread is pretty Christmas-y, too, but I mostly chose it because I feel like it's a cookie they'll appreciate.

Greek confections can go one of two ways. They can either be doused in syrup and covered with a layer of sugar so thick, you have to brush half of it off to eat it or they're almost bread-like with just a hint of sweetness. Maybe a touch of citrus flavour.

So these are kind of Greek-like in their simplicity. Fairly plain looking, slightly sweet, but they have a very delicious melt-in-your-mouth, buttery texture.

Since I'm sending these in the mail, I opted out of my usual glazed cherry on top and went with sprinkles. Glazed cherries probably wouldn't look so tasty after a trip through the mail.

{whipped shortbread}

2 cups butter (salted or unsalted is fine, but it must be butter)
1 cup icing sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla

Cut the butter up into cubes or rectangles to make it easier to beat. The secret to these cookies is to beat the daylights out of the batter so it's best to make these with a stand mixer. Beat the butter on a generously high setting until well creamed. Add the icing sugar in increments beating slowly at first, increasing to a high setting (to avoid getting a big cloud of sugar in your face). Add the cornstarch in increments in the same manner as the sugar. Add the flour in increments, continually beating in the same manner as the last two ingredients (I hope you're not covered in suspicious looking white powder at this point). Add vanilla and beat to mix and whip completely. It should be super soft and fluffy at this point.

Scoop with a cookie scoop or teaspoon. Make sure to press the tops down a little before baking.

Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes or until golden.

{note} Variations: pressed with a sugar-dipped cup; pressed with a fork to make a cross-hatch pattern with sprinkles on top; add a nut on top; press in a chocolate kiss; press in a glazed cherry; squish with a clean cup and after baking, dip into melted chocolate and let cool; switch out the vanilla extract for peppermint, then add crushed candy canes to the top (or a mini one); using smaller rounds of dough, press down with thumb then, after baking, spread icing on one side and sandwich with another cookie; flatten with a clean cup, then use a stencil to get a design in the top, as seen here. (I've only done the cherry, so let me know how things turn out if you use any of the other ideas!)

{noted} For the parents, I halved this recipe so it only made one sheet of cookies. Me. Eating them all. Not going to happen.


Lindsey @ Hot Polka Dot said...

Yum! I love me some whipped shortbread. Great gift idea!

Stephanie said...

Yum!!!! My mom makes these each year and they remind me of christmas each time I see them

JehanP said...

Yum, I'm a huge fan of shortbread and these are festive and pretty.

Lauren Hairston said...

Just saw these on pinterest. They sound (and look!) delicious!

Dead.Weight said...

Can I ask why icing sugar and not regular? Ive been wondering this recently when I made sugar cookies that called for this.

GALaxy said...

Dead.Weight: Thanks for making me do some sugar research this morning! Through a variety of different websites, I found that sugars carry out a more important role in baking than simply acting as a sweetener. The use of one sugar over another can determine texture, volume, tenderness, and moisture in a baked good; so switching from the use of one sugar to another in a recipe will have unexpected consequences, and (obviously) the recipe will not turn out the way it was initially intended to.

However, if you have your heart set on shortbread, there are recipes that call for granulated sugar as opposed to icing sugar. In those particular recipes, the cookie is described as being crumbly and of sand-like consistency instead of the melt-in-your-mouth consistency found with this recipe. I suppose it's just a matter of determining what kind of cookie you would like to bake and finding a recipe to suit the ingredients you have. I would not suggest substituting one for the other -- unless you want to do some experimenting of your own!

(If you want to learn more, you can find facts about sugar and how it works in baking by doing a simple Google search.)

Dead.Weight said...

I know they have different properties. some have more spread etc, but was wondering why this one would. seeing as how you use cornstarch already, why icing sugar.

GALaxy said...

Well, Dead.Weight, I think my "let me google that for you" well has run dry.

If you're so inclined (and it looks like you're in some sort of pastry school so you should be), I would suggest that you do your own experiments using this recipe. Cut it in half, make one batch with icing sugar and no cornstarch, the other with cornstarch and granulated sugar and see what happens.

Even in the age of the internet, sometimes you have to figure out the answers yourself and you can't go about relying on everyone else to do your work for you.

Dead.Weight said...

I was only asking, not telling anyone to do any work for me.

Whitehall Shop said...

I have never tried shortbread with the icing sugar either. Only ever had the 'sandy' variety. These sound delicious, and I will be trying them out this morning. Will try not to eat the whole batch myself. :) But, no guarantees.

Anonymous said...

Can you tell me how many cookies a half-batch made? Thinking about these for teacher gifts :)

GALaxy said...

Anonymous: I think a half-batch should make about 2 dozen cookies depending on how big or small you want to make them.

Deadsoul said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Clarity Adept said...

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Dead.Weight said...

Hey I'm remaking these after years. Did you use cold butter cut into cubes?

GALaxy said...

Dead weight: I believe it was room temperature butter cut up into cubes just to make the mixing go easier and faster.