Shortbread should taste of nothing but the purest butter, the finest sugar and the softest, whitest flour!
Um… if those are your feelings, you may want to stop reading now. Because along with adding vanilla bean to them, I’m going to advocate going further and adding any flavour you want. How about orange zest? Or almond extract. Mint? Cinnamon? The sky is the limit. In this case, I do suggest using either vanilla bean paste, or scraping a whole bean and adding the seeds. You want lots of vanilla flavour, and the pretty black specks, but you don’t want to really add liquid to the dough.
Speaking of changing things up, how about using semolina flour (fantastic)? Rice flour? Corn starch? Even *gasp* whole wheat flour?
For me, shortbread is defined more by the texture than the flavour. And even then, there are variations. Meltingly buttery, gritty, fluffy, crumbly, crisp…. I like them all.
These cookies are slightly crisp and barely crumbly, flecked with the subtle comforting flavour of vanilla. They are perfect for decorating, dipping in chocolate or using for sandwich cookies, like their chocolate counterparts.
Vanilla Bean Shortbread Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or the seeds scraped from one pod)
2 cups all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment and set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together butter, sugar and vanilla. Add the flour and continue to mix. It will seem crumbly, but keep going a bit longer and it will start to clump together. Take the dough from the bowl and press it into a ball with your hands.
Roll the dough 1/4-inch thick on a surface dusted with icing sugar. Make sure your rolling pin is well-dusted too. (Using icing sugar instead of flour allows the dough to be re-rolled without getting tough). Cut into desired shapes and place on prepared baking sheets. Repeat as necessary, re-rolling the scraps as you go.
Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until cookies are just barely pale golden brown. Let them cool on the baking sheets until they’ve firmed up. Then they can be transferred to a rack to finish cooling. Decorate if desired.
Number made depends on the size of your cutter.
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