I recently had a wow moment when I first sampled whipped shortbread. It has the buttery flavor you’d expect from Scottish shortbread, but none of the denseness. These cookies are much more delicate with a texture that practically melts in your mouth. After making my first batch I kept urging anyone in close proximity ‘YOU HAVE TO TRY THESE’ which was really bossy but I felt it was in their best interest.
This recipe is all about the butter! You’ll need a whole 6 sticks (3 cups!). Trust me, it’s worth it in the end.
I’ve been rationing my vanilla beans because prices are astronomical right now, but these cookies are special and deserve the ingredient. If you don’t have vanilla beans you may use vanilla extract (which is also expensive right now) or even almond extract.
You’ll find the usual shortbread ingredients: butter, flour, sugar, salt. Here’s where a standing mixer comes in handy. Set a timer and beat all the ingredients together for five minutes. The finished cookie dough will be pale and thick.
The dough can be scooped directly from the batter bowl and placed on parchment-lined cookie sheets, but I chose a different method. The dough is thick but lax enough to pipe through pastry tubes. I used the plain, open star and closed star tips from this tube set.
I also baked a plain batch and dressed them with dark chocolate. Altogether the cookies turned out festive and made a gorgeous-looking cookie platter.
Crushed peppermint candy adds holiday flavor!
This recipe makes six dozen cookies, so they are perfect for cookie swaps and giveaway cookie trays of all kinds. However, this particular kind of shortbread is not a good candidate for shipping. I’m almost certain these would turn into a cloud of cookie dust before they reach their long-distance destination. I recommend gifting them them close to home.
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Edit: 12/22/17: After a few of you had trouble with the cookies spreading while using metric measures, I re-weighed my ingredients. The flour weight was slightly off and it’s been corrected in the recipe. However, after studying recipes across quite a few websites, spreading can be common with this cookie because of high oven temps and water content in subpar butter. As a fail-safe many recipes add a 1 1/2 cups cornstarch to the dough in addition to the flour. Although I feel this recipe does not need cornstarch, those that are dubious may choose to add it as insurance. My best tips are to use high quality butter that is extremely firm when cold. Also, an oven thermometer that hangs inside the oven can best help you gauge the temperature. We’re not so much trying to bake these cookies as we are trying to dry them at a low temperature.
Yields 6 dozen cookies
3 cups/6 sticks (680g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups (170g) confectioners’ sugar
4 1/2 cups (685g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped*
Assorted holiday sprinkles and candies
4 ounces semisweet or dark chocolate, melted
Combine butter and confectioners’ sugar in bowl of stand mixer fitted with whip attachment. Mix on high speed until mixture turns pale, about 2 minutes.
Add flour to butter mixture in three additions, mixing well on medium speed after each addition. When flour is incorporated, add salt and vanilla seeds or extract. Beat on high speed 5 minutes; dough should be pale and thick. Transfer dough to piping bags fitted with decorator tips. Alternatively, use a small cookie scoop.
Line two or more cookie sheets with parchment paper. Pipe (or place) mounds of cookie dough on prepared pans; spacing cookies at least 1 inch apart. Add colorful nonpareils or confetti sprinkles to cookies before baking. Transfer cookies on baking sheets to refrigerator to chill 10 minutes, or until cookies are firm to touch.
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Bake cookies 30-35 minutes, or until cookies are lightly golden around edges and still pale in center. Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool completely. Drizzle with chocolate, if using. Store cooled cookies in an airtight container.
*2 teaspoons vanilla extract can be substituted for the vanilla bean.