Scottish Shortbreads {Recipe} – Virtual Cookie Exchange

It’s that time of year. Time for decorating, shopping, attending holiday parties, and, of course, COOKIES!! Like many of you, I bake a lot of cookies during the holiday season. So I was excited to once again get invited to my friend Di’s second annual Virtual Cookie Exchange.

Given the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, I thought I would choose a really easy recipe. After looking around a bit, I settled on a Scottish Shortbread recipe by my friend and baking mentor, Nick Malgieri.

When I say these cookies are easy, I’m not kidding. There are only three ingredients — butter, sugar, and flour — and they go from mixing to the oven to baked in no time.

Since the only binder is butter, the dough is quite crumbly. But a little kneading and pressing brought it together quite nicely.

After dividing the dough, I pressed it out by hand (no rolling needed), then cut the cookies with a 2 1/2-inch fluted cutter.

The cookies baked up nice and crisp and had that wonderful, buttery shortbread flavor. As simple as it was, this was definitely a winning recipe, and one I’m sure to repeat often. And not just during the holiday season.

Nick’s recipe for Scottish Shortbread can be found here, along with a lot of other wonderful recipes. I’ve also reprinted the shortbread recipe below.

Scottish Shortbread

Makes about 40 cookies, depending on the size of the cutter used

  • 24 tablespoons (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)

2 cookie sheets or jelly roll pans lined with parchment or foil

  1. Set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
  2. Beat the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed until very soft and light, about 5 minutes.
  3. Remove the bowl from the mixer and incorporate the flour by hand, using a large rubber spatula.
  4. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and fold it over on itself 2 or 3 times to makes sure it is completely smooth. Use a knife or bench scraper to divide the dough into 4 pieces.
  5. Lightly flour the work surface and gently pat the dough with the palm of you hand until it is about 1/4-inch thick (The dough is much too soft for a rolling pin.)
  6. Run a large knife or spatula under the dough to make sure it isn’t stuck to the work surface.
  7. Use a 2 1/2- to 3-inch fluted cutter to cut out the shortbreads. Place them in the prepared pans about 1 inch apart on all sides as they are cut.
  8. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
  9. After you have used all the dough, gently knead the scraps together, then press the dough and cut it again. You may continue to do so until there are no scraps left as long as you don’t use too much flour under or on the dough, which will toughen the shortbreads.
  10. Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes, or until they are light golden. Change the position of the pans from upper to lower rack and vice versa, also turning them back to front at least once during baking. If your oven gives strong bottom heat, stack 2 pans together for baking on the bottom rack to provide extra insulation against burning the shortbreads.
  11. Slide the papers from the pans to racks to cool the shortbreads.
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Instant Puff Pastry {ModBak}

The first recipe in the Puff Pastry section of The Modern Baker is the basis of all the recipes that follow. Sure, you could make these recipes with store bought puff pastry, but why would you? Especially since, like so many of Nick Malgieri’s recipes, the recipe for Instant Puff Pastry is so easy to put together.

The puff pastry has only four ingredients — flour, butter, salt, and water — and comes together quickly in the food processor. And unlike the typical puff pastry recipe, which requires multiple “turns” to fold and roll chilled butter into the dough, Nick’s recipe incorporates the butter into the dough from the beginning.

After combining the flour and salt in the bowl of the food processor, I added the butter (chilled and cut into pieces). I pulsed mixture, then added the water and finished mixing the dough. Then I turned the dough out onto a floured board, where I pressed and rolled it into a rectangle. 

I rolled and turned the dough, making sure it was well-floured on the top and underneath, until I had an 18-inch square. I cut the square in half, then rolled one half out to a 12 x 18-inch rectangle. I folded the rectangle in thirds, then rolled it into a cylinder and flattened it under my palm. I did the same thing with the other half of the dough. When I cut the dough in half, it exhibited the layers you expect to see in puff pastry.

 

 It took less than half an hour to put the dough together, and Nick says that it can be frozen for several months, so I decided that while I had the ingredients out and the food pro already messed up, I might as well make all the dough I would need for this section of the Modern Baker Challenge. I figured that I would need five recipes of instant puff pastry. Each batch came together faster than the one before, and I had all five of them finished, divided, bagged, and the kitchen cleaned in just over two hours.

I put them in the fridge while I cleaned, then moved all but the ones I was planning to use right away to the freezer.

If you’ve ever made puff pastry using a traditional recipe, you’ll understand how simple this recipe really is. And once you try it, you’ll wonder why you ever went to all that work before.

And whether you’ve made puff pastry before or not, I guarantee that once you try this recipe, you’ll never go back to store bought again.