Shortbread gets its name not from the relatively small size of the cookies, but from an archaic cooking term. “Short” used to refer to any pastry that had a high percentage of fat in it. This is also what gives them such a broad appeal. The cookies put the rich taste of sweetened butter first and foremost in the mouths of those who eat them. If you are cooking these to taste, consider going up to a 1/2 teaspoon of salt to give them a slightly salty edge in order to accentuate their sweetness. Those who do not like salt are advised to take the 1/4 teaspoon option.
Although this recipe from the New York Times does not call for chocolate, many other types of shortbreads do. If you want, experiment with adding a layer of chocolate over the top of this shortbread in order to provide a different texture. Other options for this include serving it alongside fudge for dipping, or with a variety of sauces to drizzle over the top of it. By experimenting, you can find a signature way to serve this classic piece of American dessert.
- 1/2 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 to 1/4 teaspoon salt
To start, use an electric mixer on low speed to combine the butter and sugar for about 30 seconds. Keeping the speed low, beat the egg yolk, flour, cornstarch and salt into the mixture in that order. You want to do this until the mixture just barely holds together.
Then you’ll want to make shapes. Just form the dough into a ball, wrap that in plastic and refrigerate it for about 30 minutes. Lightly flour a surface like a cutting board and roll it out until it is 1/4 inch thick. Cut into shapes – now is the time to break out those seasonal holiday cookie cutters if you have them. Chill the dough for an hour.
Heat your oven to 275 degrees, and bake the cookies until they are firm, but still tender. You don’t want to brown them at all – they will be too crispy. This usually takes about 30 minutes, but you should check at the 20 and 25 minute mark. Cool them on a sheet before using a spatula to transfer cookies to a rack.