Sometimes less really is more; case in point: these tender, pared-down bars of Scottish shortbread made up of little more than butter, sugar, salt, flour, and cornstarch. Sure, one could jazz them up with a hefty pinch of citrus zest, a drizzle of melted chocolate, chopped nuts, or a vast variety of other additions, but something about their simplicity and purity of buttery flavor is what makes them a star in my eyes, and those of just about everyone who's tried them.
I've been making this particular recipe for over a decade, and for good reason. Their effort-to-reward ratio is shockingly high — I've been making them unassisted since my tweens — they keep well, and their rich comforting flavor is soul-soothing whether nibbled on unadorned or generously dolloped with a bit of jam or preserves. Given their short ingredient list, use the best butter you can get your hands on; it will make all the difference.
Shortbread keeps particularly well when stored in an airtight container, and actually has a better texture on the second day.
10 tablespoons (5 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup (1 ounce) powdered sugar, sifted
1-1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup (1 ounce) cornstarch
1-1/4 cups (6-1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
- Preheat the oven to 300ºF.
- Beat together the butter, powdered and granulated sugars, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer until lightened in color and fluffy.
- Sift together the cornstarch and flour, and add it in three additions to the butter-sugar mixture, scraping down the bowl between each addition. Mix until a cohesive dough just begins to form (it will be crumbly).
- Turn the dough out into an 8-by-8-inch square pan and press it firmly into an even layer. Prick the dough in a decorative pattern with the tines of a fork and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until light golden brown.
- Allow to cool for about 20 minutes, then cut almost all the way through to form bars. Sprinkle with a bit of granulated sugar. Allow to completely cool, then cut through the bars the rest of the way.
Makes 16 2-by-2-inch bar cookies.
- Desserts, Cookies