Simple ingredients: butter, sugar and flour make up real old-fashioned shortbread. While 

variations on these basic ingredients are many, the real McCoy is hard to beat.

The trick is in the kneading; you really can’t knead shortbread too much. The more you knead, the stronger the dough (your arms, too) which, in turn, will result in flaky, rich layers and a delicious Christmas cookie.

Cut small, even a wee bit, with a cup of tea or a glass of Scotch (if you are a real connoisseur), beside a warm wood stove or a roaring fire, is a real Northern treat.

Among cooks, there is endless discussion as to whether shortbread should be creamed by hand or with an electric mixer. Using a big wooden spoon, take your time and cream this shortbread by hand: a dense, crisp-textured shortbread will be your reward.


Traditional Butter Shortbread

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup butter, softened to room temperature

½ cup granulated sugar

1½ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup rice flour

Additional flour for kneading

PREPARATION:

Cream the butter and sugar together.

In a separate bowl, blend the flours together.

Add flour into the creamed butter and sugar mixture.

Dump onto a lightly floured surface or cutting board.

Gather the dough together and then split it in two, kneading each piece for about three minutes. Keep kneading until the dough is smooth and pliable, adding a bit more flour if necessary.

Roll out partially, then press into a pie plate, tart tin or shortbread mould, fluting the edges, scoring and pressing with a cookie cutter, gently, for indentation and then poking all over with a bamboo skewer.

Bake at 250F (200F in a convection oven) for 30 to 40 minutes. Watch carefully toward the end, so that too much browning does not occur.

Yield = one seven-inch shortbread mould plus two small four-inch tart tins or pie plates to cut into 16 pieces.


Oatmeal Shortbread

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup butter, softened to room temperature

½ cup brown sugar

1½ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup oats, ground in a food processor

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Additional flour for kneading

PREPARATION:

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together.

Depending on the texture you want, grind the oats in a food processor. The finer you grind, the more delicate the texture of your shortbread.

Mix the all-purpose flour, ground oats and cinnamon, continuing to blend until the dough sticks together.

Gather the dough in the bowl and then dump it out and start kneading. Add more flour if necessary so that the dough is not sticky. Continue kneading until the dough is smooth and pliable.

Roll the dough out into a small circle and then press into prepared tart or flan tins.

Press a piece of plastic wrap over the dough and, with your hands, smooth the surface.

Score the dough into eight sections. Indent a Christmas cookie cutter into the dough segments, if desired.

With a bamboo skewer or fork, poke the dough at intervals.

Bake at 250F (200F in a convection oven) for about 30 to 40 minutes.

Let cool, then remove the bottom and, with a sharp chef’s knife, cut the shortbread into wedges along pre-made lines.

Yield = two six-inch tart or pie tins to cut into 16 pieces.