Saturday, March 6, 2010

Saturday Splurge: Slice & Bake Shortbread Cookies

We finally got powdered sugar again and I wanted to celebrate by making shortbread cookies. Ok, actually, I had been wanting to do shortbread for two weeks, but we had been out. My only concern was the time. I get one hour of labor credit for making stuff on Saturdays. I usually take longer, and don't mind, but rolling, cutting, re-chilling and baking shortbread for 100 people sounded a bit too tedious all the same. I knew there HAD to be a better way.

For years my family has made our own slice & bake cookies. As in, you make a triple batch, roll part of it up in plastic wrap, throw it in the freezer, and - POOF! - excellent cookies whenever you want. Since shortbread cookies have to chill anyway (which is part of what makes rolling them a pain - it needs to be all cold for them to keep their shape, but then you need serious muscle to get the dough flat, and by the time you get them cut out, they're warm again and need to chill again) I thought why not put them in logs and just cut them in circles? Less fun? Maybe. But way faster. I made a quick search of the interwebs, just to make sure it wouldn't kill anything, and what I found indicated to me that they should work out just fine.

I would be aware of a couple things here. First, if you want them to be nice circles, you will have to pay some attention to the dough as it chills. It's super soft when warm, so even after I put them in nice rolls, it got flat on one side while in the fridge. re-rolling every 30 minutes would probably work and not increase the chill time too much. The second thing is that you do need to pay attention to thickness to get them to cook properly. And don't try to dip them in cocoa before baking. I did it to some - that's the brown traces in the picture above, but they didn't taste ANY different. Not worth the time. When chilling, be sure there's no fish or other strong smell in the fridge, because the butter will pick it up like it's its baby. This is a standard recipe, so I give credit to anyone and everyone.

Slice & Bake Shortbread Cookies
Makes: about 30 cookies from a 2-inch round log Time: A whole lot less than rolling & cutting them!

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup corn starch (for sturdier cookies, use 2 cups flour, omit cornstarch)
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) UNSALTED butter, room temperature (as the butter flavor really comes through, this is more important. I had to use salted and it was ok, but be sure to leave out the salt above.)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

- Cream the butter until smooth
- Add the sugar, cream until smooth
- Beat in the vanilla extract
- Mix flour and cornstarch in a small bowl, then mix into butter mixture until just incorporated
- Scoop dough onto a long piece of plastic wrap, (or several, if you want to have it on hand for small batches) making a line of dough near one edge. Be sure to leave room at the ends.
- Fold near edge of wrap over dough, and roll up dough, closing ends
- Chill in fridge at least 2 hours, up to 1 day (or freeze, well-wrapped, for maybe a month)
- When chilled, preheat oven to 350ยบ
- When oven almost hot, remove dough from fridge/freezer, slice into 1/4 inch cookies and place on ungreased cookie sheet
- Bake 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned.

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Try this and want to share how it went? Have questions before you try it? Let me know!