Made with four simple ingredients—flour, sugar, salt, and butter—shortbread cookies seem like the baguettes of the cookie world. And like a crusty baguette with a warm meal, there's just something comforting about a good shortbread cookie.
This comforting simplicity prompted me to offer 25 batches of homemade shortbread cookies to a recent fundraiser for food blogger Jennifer Perillo. Over the last few days, I've baked dozens of shortbread cookies for virtual strangers, and I learned a few things along the way about these simple cookies.
1. Don't overmix. Shortbread cookies are dense affairs. Over-mixing the butter causes their texture to become too light and crumbly. When preparing the dough, don't cream the butter and sugar so much that it becomes light and fluffy.
2. Take your time. Since these cookies contain no eggs, there's no moisture to coax the ingredients quickly into a dough. Once the dry ingredients are added to the butter and sugar paste, it takes a little while for a dough to form. At first the dough seems incredibly sandy--you might even worry that it's not coming together—don't fret like I did the first time I made a batch! The dough does come together after two or three minutes of mixing. Don't rush it and don't give up. The wait's worth it.
3. Re-rolling is welcome. With no gluten to make things tough, you can roll and re-roll this dough until every last piece is used. Since these cookies are so rich, I make about two dozen 2 1/2-inch cookies from one batch, gathering and re-rolling the dough as needed to get this many cookies.
- Yield:makes about 30 cookies
- Active time: about 25 minutes
- Total time:about one hour
- 5 1/3 ounces (1 1/3 cups) white rice flour
- 2.5 ounces (1/2 cup) sweet rice flour
- 2 ounces (1/2 cup) cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (this prevents the cookies from spreading)
- 7 ounces (14 tablespoons) butter, softened
- 5 1/4 ounces (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 300°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. In small bowl, whisk together white rice flour, sweet rice flour, cornstarch, salt, baking powder, and xanthan gum. In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar, and vanilla extract together, on medium-low speed, until a thick paste forms, about 30 seconds. Shut off stand mixer. Add dry ingredients. Turn on mixer and mix until a dough forms, about three minutes.
Lightly white rice flour your countertop. Turn dough out onto counter and shape dough into a disk. Using a rolling pin, roll dough out, about 1/4-inch thick. Cut using a round cutter and place cookies on prepared baking sheet, about two inches apart. Bake until cookies are lightly golden brown on the edges and aromatic, about 30 minutes.
Allow cookies to cool on the pan for five minutes and then transfer to wire rack to cool. Repeat using remaining dough.