Magazine article Sunset

Big-Batch Gifts

Magazine article Sunset

Big-Batch Gifts

Article excerpt

BEST-EVER SHORTBREAD

There is shortbread, and then there's this shortbread, ultra-buttery with a light crunch. The secrets are rice flour for the sandy texture and a slow-and-low baking process to develop the flavor. It's a recipe that lends itself to easy, festive rifling (sprinkles! snow-flakes!)-and one you'll be happy to have in your back pocket for years.

SHEET PAN SCOTTISH SHORTBREAD

MAKES 68 1- BY 3-IN. BARS OR 48 2-IN. SQUARES / 1 ¾ HOURS, PLUS 1 ½ HOURS TO COOL

1 ¼ lbs. (5 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature

1 ¼ cups granulated sugar

1 ¼ cups white rice flour, like Bob's Red Mill

4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tbsp. coarse white sparkling sugar

1. Preheat oven to 275°. In a stand mixer, beat butter and granulated sugar on medium speed with paddle attachment until well blended and fluffy. Add rice flour and beat on low speed until incorporated, scraping bowl as needed. Gradually add all-purpose flour; beat on low until blended, scraping bowl occasionally.

2. Line a 12- by 17-in. rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Press dough into pan until very even and smooth. Bake until shortbread is golden in center, 60 to 65 minutes. Reduce oven to 250°, drape shortbread with parchment paper, and continue to bake until a finger pressed lightly into center of dough leaves no imprint, 20 to 25 minutes more.

3. Set shortbread on a cooling rack and sprinkle with sparkling sugar. While hot, cut into 1- by 3-in. rectangles or 2-in. squares (use a wooden ruler). Let cool completely in pan. After it cools, if you find that you'd like it crunchier, pop pan into a 250° oven, covered with parchment, for about 20 minutes.

MAKE AHEAD Airtight at room temperature, up to I week, or frozen, up to 3 months.

PER RECTANGULAR COOKIE 113 Cal., 54% (61 Cal.) from fat; 1 g protein; 6.9 g fat (4.3 g sat.); 12 g carbo (0.3 g fiber); 48 mg sodium; 18 mg chol. LS/V

VARIATIONS

SPRINKLE-TOP SHORTBREAD BITES

MAKES 204/ 1 ¾ HOURS, PLUS 1 ½ HOURS TO COOL

At the end of step 1, add 6 tbsp. rainbow nonpareils (tiny round sprinkles) to dough. Top baked shortbread with ¼ cup coarse green sparkling sugar instead of white sparkling sugar. Carefully cut hot dough into 1-in. squares, then cool completely in pan.

SPECULAAS SNOWFLAKES

MAKES 45/6 HOURS

Decrease granulated sugar in dough to V2 cup and add 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar. With sugars, add 4 tsp. ground ginger, 1 tbsp. cinnamon, 1 ½ tsp. ground cardamom, 1 tsp. nutmeg, and 1/8 tsp. ground cloves. Brush a 9-in. square nonstick Nordic Ware snowflake shortbread pan* ($24; amazon.com) with melted butter. Press 1 ¼ cups dough into pan and bake about 50 minutes at 275° and 15 minutes at 250°. Let shortbread cool 10 minutes, then loosen from pan with a thin sharp knife. Invert onto a board and sprinkle with 1 tbsp. granulated sugar instead of sparkling sugar. Cut into squares while warm. Repeat to use all of dough (for five batches total).

* Instead of using a snowflake pan, you can bake all of the dough at once as for Sheet Pan Scottish Shortbread (at left), liningpan with parchment; sprinkle baked shortbread with sparkling sugar.

SHORTBREAD MESSAGES

MAKES 25, PLUS SCRAPS / 1 ¾ HOURS, PLUS 1 ½ HOURS TO COOL

Carefully cut hot shortbread with 2 ½- to 3-in. chunky letter-shaped cookie cutters* to spell holiday messages such as fa la LA, JOY, or the initials of recipients. Use a small flexible spatula to help release cutters from dough. With a small knife, cut scraps around letters into smaller pieces. Let cool completely in pan. Carefully remove scraps, then letters, using a small offset spatula, and cut out scraps from within intricate letters like H with knife. Serve scraps in a bowl (they're caloriefree, right?).

* We used 3-in. Ann Clark alphabet cookie cutters ($1.25 each; surlatable.com).

GIVE IT

Scottish Shortbread

4-in. aqua canister wine punt ($73; heathceramics. …

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