These cookies are a staple around my house and various workplaces, especially in December. When I've discussed them before, I've referred to them as Vanilla Salt Cookies, as that's the recipe I'm basing them on, but really, they are shortbread cookies.
Most people think of shortbread cookies as things that come in tins, but they are extremely easy to make From Scratch. There's not even any leavening in them, other than the basic leavening you get from creaming sugar into butter. Start with that sugar and butter:
Cream them in a mixer, preferably. Remember that butter in the creaming method likes to be soft to the touch but not melted, which allows the sugar to beat into it easily, creating air pockets, but still cool enough that the air pockets remain after the beating.
After you're done, it should look something like:
Add your egg yolks and vanilla, and beat again.
You're done with the mixer. Add your flour, and stir. The nice thing about a shortbread cookie is that there is very little liquid in it, so you're not making long gluten chains. That's the meaning of "shortbread", because the gluten chains are short. That's also where "shortening" comes from, because you use it to keep the gluten short as well. This makes shortbread cookies nice and crumbly.
Now divide the dough into 2-4 equal sections and roll into a log an inch or two wide. Or you can make more or less square shapes (or stars, or whatever, really). Wrap that in plastic wrap and store in the fridge until everything is cooled all the way through.
Slice into 1/4" slices. Or you could slice them thinner or thicker, which will change the cookie, but not for the worse. Try to be consistent with any batch that you're baking, though, or you'll have some oddball cookies in your batch.
Sprinkle stuff on top. My favorite is to use Fleur de Sel, which is salt with a very large, thin crystalline structure. You could use sugar, you could add nuts, you could decorate, or whatever. Possibilities are endless. But you have to try salt (kosher or flakier) the first time you make it. After that, you may make changes. I'll be watching.
Bake for 12-15 minutes at 350°F, and you have tasty cookies. These take but a scant couple of minutes to cool to eatable temperature.
You can refrigerate the dough for a few days, or slice and freeze for months. When you need a cookie or 3, pop into the oven, giving it another minute or two as necessary to brown around the edges. Yes, that's right, you don't have to buy either pre-packaged shortbread cookies nor packaged, bake-at-home dough. You can have the convenience of no-work cookies with the flavor of freshly baked cookies.
- 1/2 lb. Butter
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 oz. sugar
- 2 yolks of large eggs
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
- 12 oz AP flour
- Cream the sugar and butter
- Add the yolks and vanilla and beat in
- Stir in the flour
- Divide into 2-4 equal portions
- Roll into a tube 1-2" wide
- Wrap tube with plastic wrap and store in fridge for a couple of hours (until firm)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F
- Slice into 1/4" pieces
- Sprinkle with course-grained salt (not rock salt)
- Bake for 12-15 minutes