Butter Shortbread Cookies

By Chef Megan Joy / April 27, 2012

There’s a reason why shortbread cookies are a classic. Rich, tender, and buttery, with the perfect bite of salt. My kind of cookie.

They’re also great for up here because they last a long time (if you don’t eat them all right away). The cookies can be kept in an airtight container for several weeks and still taste delicious. That’s difficult to say about a lot of other baked goods at altitude.

These come out best when you roll the softened dough between two sheets of parchment paper. The thicker the better. Place the dough and parchment in the freezer until nearly frozen. Punch out cookies with your choice of cookie cutter and bake right away, while still almost frozen. This makes for easy cookie making and clean-up.

Yesterday I drove down to Boulder for the day. It’s always a pleasant surprise driving down valley this time of year. The aspens are just beginning to open up their tiny green leaves here, while on the way to Boulder there is already abundant green foliage everywhere.

I think I may have even said “wow” out loud a few times on the drive. I always enjoy the differences in terrain driving throughout Colorado. The foothills are just as visually stunning as the mountains themselves.

Boulder was fun as always, I took care of some shopping needs and spent a little time on Pearl Street. One of my favorite places to stop in is Penzey’s Spices. When I was in pastry school I became aware of how greatly spice quality can vary. Many of my weekends were spent exploring The Spice House in the Old Town neighborhood of Chicago.

Spice merchants like The Spice House and Penzey’s grind their high quality spices in small batches. Spices are always most flavorful when freshly ground, just like coffee beans. When they only grind what they need, you can be assured that your spice purchases are at their peak. This differs greatly from the spices you see at grocery stores, which can sometimes be years old. It’s amazing how much flavor is concentrated in a freshly ground, high quality spice. You certainly use less.

And a little tip- you can buy the spices in little bags, which costs less than in jars.

How to make this high altitude recipe:

Butter Shortbread Cookies (adapted from The Modern Cafe by Francisco Migoya)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup rice flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 lb (8 oz) salted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean

Sift the flours and salt together. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together with the paddle attachment until just incorporated. You don’t want to whip extra air into these cookies or the characteristic shortbread texture will be altered.

Split and scrape the seeds of the vanilla bean from the pod and add to the creamed mixture. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until the dough just comes together.

Dump the dough onto a sheet of parchment paper and top with another sheet of parchment. Roll the dough to your desired thickness and place the parchment dough sheet in the freezer. Chill until nearly frozen.

Preheat your oven to 325 F. Punch out desired shapes with a cookie cutter and place on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Bake the cookies in their almost-frozen state until they are golden brown along the edges.

About the author

Chef Megan Joy

Mischa - November 24, 2012

Up here in the Andes, I made these with a mix of grain flours called “Super Harina 4”, natural unrefined sugar (the cookies turn out a little darker), and farm fresh butter. Yummy! These are super rich, and so good with coffee or tea. Once I get a baking pan with sides, I’m going to try to use this as the base for “Lemon Bars” which my mom used to make and my husband loves. Thanks for all the great ideas and experience rolled into one. 🙂

    Chef Megan Joy - November 24, 2012

    That sounds delicious! I wish I had fresh farm butter to play with in the kitchen. The cookies would be an excellent base for lemon bars. Thanks Mischa.

Lisa Drake - November 4, 2013

My new favorite tea cookie! These hit the spot! Thank you for another wonderful recipe, Megan! 🙂

Lisa Drake - November 8, 2013

Hi, Megan! I linked to this recipe in my latest blog post today. Happy Weekend! 🙂

Kristin - February 27, 2014

Megan – These sound perfect for a party I’m hosting this weekend. Is there a way to cook the entire cookie in a round pan and then cut into wedges? I’ve seen shortbread wedges before and would love to try them out. Would anything need to change in the recipe to accommodate the different baking dish? Thank you for being such an inspiration to all of us who moved to Colorado and could no longer bake cupcakes, bread…just about anything! Thank you!!!

    Chef Megan Joy - March 1, 2014

    Hi Kristin, these should work just fine if you press the dough into a round pan lined with parchment paper and coated with cooking spray or butter. Before you put the dough in the oven, chill it in the freezer so it’s very firm, then using a knife, make indents on where you plan to cut the cookie into wedges. You may want to reduce the oven temp 15-25 degrees so that it has time to cook evenly. Once it’s cooled, gently invert the cookie, remove the parchment paper, and finish cutting. Happy baking!

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