Shortbreads are one of those cookies that don’t seem like much, but are just delicious. My husband loves them (and my in-laws always have a box stashed somewhere), so I occasionally buy them. The other day I was thinking that I really ought to bake some.
I think I a long time ago made some pecan ones, and there are plenty of recipes around with a lot of recipes around for all sort of different flavors. I wanted to make a basic one, where the main flavor comes from the butter and vanilla.
I have this little book called Miss Jensens Five O’Clock Tea. I got it quite a while ago, but I never made any recipes from it. It is a republish of 1902 recipe collection. Miss Jensen was a famous Danish cook (and head of household) and authored a number of cookbooks for ‘the modern house-wife’. According to the foreword this was a collection of cheap and easy cakes, breads and cookies, useful in the many households where the family gathers for tea before or after dinner. The recipes from this book were primarily ones she gathered when she visited England.
This book obviously contains a recipe for shortbreads – and I don’t know about cheap given it called for a real vanilla pod and (of course) a lot of butter – but I guess that in 1902 there weren’t any cheaper fats available.
Most recipes include butter, flour sugar and vanilla, but this one included an egg too, which I found interesting. I was a bit worried to try out a recipe from 1902 – I doubt the butter has the same amount of water content and salt today as it did then, on top of the differences between European and US style butter. I worked out great though!
Since the butter is one of the main flavoring components of this cookie, using higher quality butter would probably make them taste even better, but I just used Safeway brand Organic butter.
Ingredients: (Original recipe from Frk. Jensen’s Five O’clock Tea)
- 500 g all-purpose flour (17.6 oz)
- 250 g butter (8.8 oz )
- 1 tsp baking powder
- Seeds from 1 vanilla pod
- 150 g sugar (5.2 oz)
- 1 egg
1. Split the vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds.
2. Mix the flour, baking powder and vanilla seeds in a bowl.
3. Add the butter and squeeze the butter into the flour mixture with your hands.
4. Add the sugar and the egg and mix until a dough forms. Be patient here, it is very crumbly. However, if it needs a little more moisture, I found it useful to wet my hands and keep going – you don’t want to add too much water.
5. Split the dough in 2 and form it into squares. Let them cool in you refrigerator for 30-60 min.
6. Preheat your oven to 175-190 C/ 350-370 F, and line some cookie sheets with parchment paper.
7. Take one square out of the refrigerator and roll out to about 1/2 cm thick . Try to make it as square as possible (to minimize waste).
8. Prick the surface with a fork, and cut out rectangles in the size you desire. I found it useful to use a ruler for this.
9. Place shortbreads on the prepared sheets. You can place them very close together, as they don’t spread.
10. Bake for 12-17 min, until golden brown. You have to keep an eye on them, the time will vary with oven.
11. Let cool on a wire rack. Repeat if you could not fit them all in the oven at once.
I thought the recipe was very successful, and very delicious. Such a simple cookie, and always perfect with tea, coffee or hot chocolate.