Monday, June 14, 2010

Scottish Shortbread

In the last couple of days I have made two batches of cookies. This is not an unusual thing to be doing if you are someone who cooks and bakes for a living. But I can't really claim that these cookies were made entirely for professional reasons. I will use one batch for a dinner class—but they were not really necessary for the class and to tell the truth, I just wanted to have some on hand for myself. I guess I am just in the mood to make...and eat...cookies. Besides being a great afternoon treat to go with my coffee, cookies seem to hit the right dessert note for summer—they go so well with fruit or ice cream (or both) at the end of a meal.

Yesterday I made a batch of peanut butter toffee cookies. I'll admit that peanut butter is not the first cookie that comes to mind as a companion for summer fruits. But I had marked this recipe as one I wanted to try some time ago and I happened to have a bag of milk chocolate toffee bits—purchased for something else, now languishing in the back of a cupboard. The cookies, as it turns out, go very well with ice cream:

The cookie I made for my dinner class (to be served with Butter Pecan Ice Cream and Peaches "Foster") is one of my all time favorite cookies. Scottish Shortbread. It is a good all around cookie—great with coffee or tea and simple enough to go with whatever flavor ice cream or type of fruit that you might be serving. I make them every year for Christmas. It's nice any time of year to have a stash in the freezer.

Almost all cookies freeze very well and they thaw, setting out on a plate, in about the time it takes to brew a cup of coffee or do the dinner dishes. Every kitchen I have ever worked in has utilized the freezer to maintain their supply of fresh baked goods.  At home I started to keep cookies in my freezer so that I would have to think about thawing a cookie in order to eat one. The idea being that keeping them there would curb the tendency to eat them mindlessly. But I have unfortunately discovered that some cookies are pretty good when they are still frozen. Peanut butter cookies are one such cookie—one of the reasons they work so well in the ice cream sandwich....

The Scottish Shortbread recipe was given to me by a British woman that I worked for in Provence. If I recall correctly, this was the recipe she grew up with—probably fairly common in the British Isles. Even though I had lived in London, I hadn't acquired a good shortbread recipe while I was there. I am so pleased that she shared her recipe with me.  It has become a permanent part of my repertoire.

Her recipe was called Two-Four-Six Shortbread after the weights of the ingredients: 2 oz. of sugar, 4 oz. of butter, 6 oz. of flour. The original recipe calls for rubbing the butter into the flour and sugar by hand, as for a pie dough, until the dough begins to come together in clumps. I use a traditional creaming method instead—simply because it is faster. As it turns out, I think the cookies are a bit less dense and more tender when the creaming method is used. The other change I made was to add some salt. If you are using salted butter you don't need to add any salt.

Scottish Shortbread

8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at a cool room temperature
4 oz. (1/2 c. plus 1 T.) sugar
12 oz. (3 c.) all-purpose flour
1/2 t. salt

Cream butter and sugar. Using your hands or the paddle attachment on your mixer, work in the flour and salt until the dough holds together when squeezed. Divide the dough between 2 ungreased 8-inch cake pans.

Press into a firm, even layer. Score the dough into 12 or 16 wedges and prick each wedge with a fork, pricking all the way through the dough. Use the tines of a fork to press ½-inch lines radiating like the rays of sun all around the edge of the dough.

Bake in a preheated 275° oven until set and beginning to turn a light golden color—about an hour. Cool the cookies in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully tap the “cake” out of the pan onto a cutting board. Cut into wedges along the markings while still warm. Cool completely on racks. Store air tight.

Makes 24 to 32 shortbread fans.


Katrina said...

Well, I think it only fitting that the first class I took of yours was the Holiday Cookies class. Now the last class I'll take will have more of the same delicious cookies. We'll even be there with Ellen, who took me to that first class. Sigh.
I know I've told you before, but I've thoroughly enjoyed your classes, your teaching and food and you! Thanks for the friendship.

Paige said...

Thank you Katrina. And I have said it before too, but I will so miss having you in class. Good thing there is the "blogosphere" so we can stay in touch!

Paul said...

While others are watching Instagram Live for cooking entertainment, I have been exploring and enjoying your blog. In addition to the cocoa muffins, these were another winner, absurdly easy to make and even easier to enjoy. And I already have it memorized! Thanks for this one too.

Paige said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed these cookies...and are enjoying my blog! I had to chuckle when your comment came through, because at first glance I thought you were commenting on my most recent post. Just yesterday I posted a variation on this recipe...inspired by some of the Instagram Live I have been watching during recent weeks! :) You should try the new recipe too. They are both delicious...and each is traditional in its own way. Thanks again for taking time to let me know you tried and liked this recipe. I truly appreciate it!