Blog Brown Sugar Shortbread
This week's recipe, for shortbread cookies, is about as simple as it gets. Shortbread requires no eggs or baking powder for its light, tender texture, and it has a wonderful caramelized flavor even without benefit of vanilla. "Short" means crumbly; the high proportion of fat in this recipe keeps the flour from forming long gluten strands, which would make the cookies chewy, or even tough. Although plain all-purpose flour is commonly used, many recipes add oat flour or rice flour, which do not form gluten and so add to shortbread's "shortness." I chose rice flour, which you can buy in bags in the baking aisle, or in bulk in many natural food stores.
In addition to their generous allotment of butter, these shortbread cookies rely on a modest amount of brown sugar, rather than granulated, for flavor. The dough is quickly made in a food processor, and requires just a brief stay in the refrigerator to firm up before cutting. Though shortbread should be rich, not overly sweet, a sprinkling of sugar on top finishes the cookies off nicely. I like to use demerara sugar, which is a coarsely granulated brown sugar, similar to turbinado sugar. Its very slight molasses flavor reinforces the brown sugar within the cookies, and its coarse crystals add a beautiful sparkle and crunch.