Shortbread for tea

My friend S. told me that I must have Gaelic blood in me, and that I should be made an honorary Scotswoman for my “excellent” homemade shortbread.  It is a welcomed compliment (who doesn’t like a compliment?) 😉 made sweeter by the fact that I don’t even like shortbread (I don’t like butter!  Blasphemous, I know!).  I’ve heard that shortbread is the perfect cookie to accompany a cup of tea. 🙂

The odd thing is that I really like making shortbread because I have an affinity and appreciation for one-trick pony kitchen wares such as shortbread molds.  I own a shortbread mold that has flowers and berries.  I acquired it secondhand and use it exclusively for baking shortbread.  Although I’ve tried using it for baking rolls and bagels, it’s not ideal for use as a general baking stone.  However, if you don’t have a shortbread mold, you can use a pizza stone or even unglazed ceramic tile on which to bake your shortbread.  You won’t get the pretty designs but you can always get fancy by kneading, rolling out the dough, and cutting it with cookie cutters.  It will still be delicious!

The following basic shortbread recipe can serve as the base for any shortbread variation.  Favorite variations in our household are orange or lemon poppyseed shortbread (add 1 Tbsp. zest and 1 Tbsp. poppy seeds to the basic shortbread recipe below) and jam filled shortbread.  For other variations such as matcha, chai, and other tea shortbread, see Henni’s variations below.

A platter of assorted shortbread fingers! Outer layer: classic shortbread–Middle layer: orange poppyseed shortbread–Inner layer: pear jam filled shortbread

Basic shortbread
(adapted from Lucy Ross Natkiel’s Classic Shortbread III recipe in The gourmet shortbread book)

1/2 cup butter, cold
1/3 cup powdered sugar (unsifted)
1 cup flour, minus 2 Tbsp. (unsifted)
2 Tbsp. rice flour*

Using a food processor, add all ingredients and pulse the mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs and the butter is fully incorporated into the flour.  Spray the ceramic shortbread pan very lightly with a non-stick vegetable oil spray.  Pour the shortbread “crumbs” into the shortbread pan, and working out from the center, firmly press the dough into the pan.  Prick the entire surface with a fork.  Bake at 325 degrees for 35 minutes, or until it is lightly browned.  Be sure that the middle is thoroughly cooked and doesn’t look slightly opaque or the shortbread might stick in the pan.

Let the shortbread cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before you flip the pan over onto a cutting board.  If the shortbread does not come right out, put a cutting board on top of the pan (the cutting board should be bigger than the pan) and while holding the pan against the cutting board, turn it upside down and firmly tap one edge of the pan against the board.  This should loosen the shortbread and it should drop out.  Cut the shortbread into serving pieces while it is still warm, otherwise the edges will not be clean.

*You can skip the rice flour and just use 1 c. flour, if you wish.  The rice flour makes a flakier cookie.

For other shortbread recipes, visit:

Henni’s variations:

  • Almond sesame shortbread: Add 1/2 tsp. almond extract. Press toasted sesame seeds onto top of shortbread.  
  • Matcha shortbread: Add 2 tsp. green tea leaves and 1/2 tsp. good quality matcha powder.  Optional: Press black sesame seeds onto top of shortbread.  
  • Masala chai shortbread: Add 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. cardamom, 1/4 tsp. ginger, 1/4 tsp. cloves, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, contents of 1 black tea bag or 2 tsp. loose leaf black tea (such as English breakfast).
  • Oolong tea shortbread: Add 1 Tbsp. oolong tea leaves.

Charlie Brown: “Empty?! You took all the cookies!”
Snoopy: “They were crying to get out of the jar… Cookies get claustrophobia too, you know!”

― Charles M. Schulz

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