The best way to create perfect shortbread cookies every time is to use the exact listed ingredients in the exact amounts specified by the recipe. Surprisingly, only three ingredients are absolutely necessary to produce this classic treat in its basic form.
Shortbread Cookies (approximately 24 cookies)
3/4-cup (1-1/2 sticks) salted butter, softened
1/4-cup granulated white sugar
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Cream softened butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium setting. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
3. Add sugar and continue mixing at medium speed. Again, stop several times to scrape the sides.
Continue until the graininess of the sugar is no longer noticeable and the mixture is light and creamy.
4. Lay out a sheet of wax paper. Measure the flour, after sifting, by spooning it into a measuring cup and leveling it with the flat side of a knife.
Be careful not to pack the flour down and don't tap the cup to level the flour. Too much flour produces a dry, crumbly cookie.
5. Pick up the wax paper and pour about one-third of the flour into the creamed butter-sugar mixture. Mix thoroughly at the lowest speed. Scrape the sides of the bowl. Add another one-third of the flour and mix again, still at low speed. Scrape.
6. When adding the final one-third of the flour, hold back about one tablespoon. After the addition of this final portion, the mixture should consist of very fine crumbles. You may or may not need to add the final tablespoon.
To test, use your bare hand to pick up a large handful and gently squeeze it. Much of it should stay together. If the dough is too sticky, add the last tablespoon of flour, but no more.
7. Lay out another piece of wax paper and place one large handful of cookie dough in the middle.
Gently press down to flatten the dough to 1/2-inch thickness. It may crumble slightly around the edges. Just tap them gently back into place. Lightly roll a rolling pin over the top for a perfectly flat, smooth look.
8. Go around the edges of the dough with a table knife, cutting side up, and press the edges in to straighten them.
9. Cut the dough into pieces approximately 1-inch wide by 3-1/2 to 4 inches long.
Carefully lift with a spatula and place on ungreased cookie sheets which may or may not be lined with parchment paper.
10. Place in a preheated oven and set a timer for 15 minutes. The shortbread cookies need to be slightly firm, or “set”, not browned.
Add cooking time if needed, one or two minutes at a time. Depending on the oven, they may take as long as 20 minutes.
11. Remove from the oven and if using parchment paper, immediately slide the parchment paper onto a table or counter. If not using parchment, use a turner to scoop up the cookies and place them on a wire rack.
While these deceptively simple cookies, unadorned, are a melt-in-your-mouth treat, their appearance and appeal can be embellished for special occasions with sweet or semi-sweet chocolate. One or both ends of each thoroughly cooled cookie can be dipped in melted chocolate and for further gilding, each chocolate-covered end Immediately dipped into finely chopped pistachio nuts.
Carefully adherence to these guidelines for preparing and cooking these buttery, rectangular sweets is truly the best way to perfect shortbread cookies.