Vanilla Bean Shortbread

Recipe Notes:

  1. This recipe works wonderfully for cutout cookies, as the cookies do not spread or lose their shape while baking, as long as you follow the instructions to freeze or chill your cutout cookies prior to baking.
  2. Your butter and liquid needs to be very cold for the best results.  If you feel like you need more liquid, add it very slowly, as too much liquid will make the dough tough, rather than tender.  Trust me, though, that while it starts off looking like just a pile of flour, it does come together into a dough, so you don't need as much liquid as you'd think.
  3. Although I used vanilla bean paste to flavor mine, you could use any flavor extract - lemon, orange or even maple would all be wonderful.
  4. You might be tempted to roll the dough thinner than 1/4 inch to be able to cut out more cookies, but these become very delicate when they are too thin, so be cautious.  It's better to cut smaller cookies than to roll them too thin.
  5. These cookies are fantastic plain, or frosted with buttercream or royal icing.

Vanilla Bean Shortbread

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract or any other flavored extract)
  • 2 tablespoons cream, milk or ice water

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt.  Scatter the pieces of butter over the flour mixture and then use a pastry cutter to cut the butter in thoroughly, until the texture resembles moist cornmeal.  Add the vanilla bean paste and the cream, and toss with a fork to distribute throughout.

Dump the mixture out onto a clean work surface; it will be very dry and floury.  Gather it together with your hands to rub the butter and liquid into the flour; continue scooping it together and kneading it gently but quickly, until it starts to stick and then comes together into a soft dough.  Don't over-work the dough.

Lightly flour your work surface, press the dough out into a disk and flour the top as well.  Roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thick.  Use any shape or size of cookie cutter you like to cut your cookies, then gather up the scraps to re-roll and cut more cookies, until you've cut all the dough.  Place the cutouts onto a parchment lined baking sheet, leaving 1 1/2 inches in between.  Set the baking sheet in the freezer for 30 minutes, or in the refrigerator for at least an hour (preferably two hours) to chill before baking.  Chilling the cutouts will help the cookies maintain their shape and not spread while baking.

After the cutouts have chilled, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Depending on the size you cut them, they will take about 8-10 minutes to bake (mine were 2 1/2 inches and took 10 minutes to bake).  The baked cookie will still be very pale on top, but the surface will no longer look like raw dough, and you should see tiny flaky layers around the edges.  Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for several minutes, and then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before decorating.

Yields about 20 cookies (using a 2 1/2 inch cutter)

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen