Quite a few of us have friends among our summer communities here in Maine, and as summer whizzes by chances to spend time with them are getting scanter and scanter. So quickly, before they have to return to their year-round homes, invite one over, get out a nice teapot and brew up a couple of cups full and put out a plate of shortbread.
Not too sweet, but rich and crisp, shortbread is the ideal companion for a late afternoon cup of tea. These are quickly and easily made, believe me, and you won’t ruin your supper because a little shortbread goes a long way.
My dear old friend Anna who lived to be 106 (but stopped making shortbread herself at 104) used to make a melt-in-your mouth version. She used rice flour in addition to all-purpose, plus butter and sugar in what is probably a classic, traditional recipe. The version below calls for cornstarch which works very well and is a slightly more common kitchen ingredient.
Unlike chocolate chip cookies, or molasses or ginger cookies, which bring out the kid in us, I think of shortbread as an elegant and very grown-up treat. They simply aren’t as sweet as the average cookie, they don’t spread all over the place; making giant versions of shortbread like you might with oatmeal raisin, simply wouldn’t be The Thing to do. Shortbread is dainty and dignified, downright lady-like, and not for stuffing handfuls in a pocket.
- ½ cup or 1 stick butter
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Sugar for sprinkling, optional
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Cream the butter and sugar together until the mixture is smooth.
- Whisk together flour, cornstarch and salt and add to the butter and sugar mixture, beating until blended. If you use a mixer, use a low speed.
- Pack the dough evenly into an eight-inch square pan. Prick all over the surface with a fork and sprinkle lightly with sugar, if you choose.
- Bake for 25 minutes or until barely golden.
- Cut into little squares and let cool, then remove from pan and store in air-tight tin.