When I started my current job, I opted to work longer hours every Monday through Thursday in exchange for every other Friday off. I think I tried to make it sound like a reasonable adult decision by pointing to the elimination of a 45-mile round trip commute twice a month, but really I just wanted to sleep in 26 times a year when my poor wife has to get up and work.

But once I’ve overdosed on sleep and video games, twinges of guilt start to gnaw at me as I hear her making calls and firing off e-mails. So on many of these Friday afternoons I’ve tried to pay back all the reasons I’m thankful for her (many of which you’ve read on this site) by tackling one of her favorites in the kitchen.

Case in point: Shortbread. I really had only had these cookies out of ugly red plaid plastic sleeves before, so this recipe was kind of daunting. However, this is very manageable and the final product turned out very well (I’m pretty sure we killed it in about 24 hours).

One key is managing the shape of the dough. Using a spring-form pan to set the initial size and then unclasping it to set the final boundary was pretty clever. Hat-tip to the goofy guy with the bow-tie in Cook’s Illustrated for that.

The other key is getting the texture right, and Cooks Illustrated’s twist, creating a flour out of rolled oats, added the right amount of coarseness to the dough. I toyed with the idea of candying bacon and incorporating it into the dough or sprinkling it on top at the end, but it felt a little too Willy Wonka.

A little while after I made this, my Aunt Debbie brought her own homemade shortbread to our Christmas festivities, and she used finely crushed potato chips instead of the oat-flour. I liked the little extra saltiness this brought to the cookies with the same textural differentiation. Sadly, I don’t think she has a blog for me to link to for you all.

Shortbread

  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstrach
  • 2/3 cup (2 2/3 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 14 Tbsp. (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Pulse oats in a spice grinder or blender until reduced to fine powder, about ten 5-second pulses.  In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix oat flour, all-purpose flour, cornstarch, sugar, and salt on low speed until combined, about 5 seconds.  Add butter to dry ingredients and continue to mix on low speed until dough just forms and pulls away from sides of bowl, 5 to 10 minutes.

Place upside-down (grooved edge should be at the top) collar of a 9- or 9 1/2-inch springform pan on parchment lined rimmed baking sheet (do not use springform pan bottom).  Press dough into collar in even 1/2-inch-thick layer, smoothing top of dough with back of spoon.  Place 2-inch biscuit cutter in center of dough and cut out center.  Place extracted round alongside springform collar on baking sheet and replace cutter in center of dough.  Open springform collar, but leave it in place.

Bake shortbread 5 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 250 degrees.  Continue to bake until edges turn pale golden, 10 to 15 minutes longer.  Remove baking sheet from oven; turn off oven.  Remove springform pan collar; use chef’s knife to score surface of shortbread into 16 even wedges, cutting halfway through shortbread.  Using wooden skewer (or a fork), pork 8 to 10 holes in each wedge.  Return shortbread to oven and prop door open with handle of wooden spoon, leaving 1-inch gap at top.  Allow shortbread to dry in turned-off oven until pale golden in center (shortbread should be firm but giving to touch), about 1 hour.

Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool shortbread to room temperature, at least 2 hours.  Cut shortbread at scored marks to separate and serve.

Recipe from Cook’s Illustrated (November and December 2009)

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