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Scotch Shortbread

Scotch Shortbread
A common first step in cookie recipes, creaming aerates the butter, resulting in cookies with a light, tender texture. To cream butter, beat it with an electric mixer or wooden spoon until it expands, lightens in color, and becomes soft and smooth. This should take 3 to 4 minutes with a mixer or longer by hand. Then add the sugar and beat until the grains are completely incorporated. Test by rubbing the mixture between your thumb and forefinger; it should feel smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl at least once during creaming to blend the ingredients evenly.

Ingredients:

  • 16 Tbs. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room
     temperature
  • 1⁄4 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1⁄4 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 Tbs. for
     sprinkling
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1⁄4 tsp. salt

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 300°F.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the butter on high speed until fluffy and pale yellow. Add the confectioners' sugar and the 1/4 cup granulated sugar and continue beating until the mixture is no longer gritty when rubbed between your thumb and finger. Beat in the vanilla.

Over a sheet of waxed paper, sift together the flour and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix on low speed or stir with a wooden spoon just until blended.

Using floured fingertips, press the dough evenly into an ungreased 9-inch square baking pan. Sprinkle evenly with the 1 Tbs. granulated sugar.

Bake the shortbread until the edges are golden, about 1 hour. Remove the pan from the oven and immediately use a thin, sharp knife to cut the shortbread into strips 3 inches by 1 inch. Use a toothpick or the tines of a fork to decorate the shortbread with a pattern of dots. Let the strips cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes before transferring them to the rack to cool completely.
Makes 27 bars.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Cookies, by Marie Simmons (Simon & Schuster, 2002).