Don't skimp on the butter when making this holiday treat. Buy the best unsalted butter you can find, and you'll be rewarded with the ultimate melt-in-your-mouth shortbread in varieties like eggnog, lemon-epresso, curry-coconut and cranberry-orange.
, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups
PREHEAT oven to 300F (150C). In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer or wooden spoon, beat butter until creamy. Gradually beat in sugar and vanilla. Continue beating until well mixed, about 2 min. In a small bowl, using a fork, stir salt into flour until mixed. Using a wooden spoon, beat into the butter mixture just until combined.
BUTTER or spray a 9 × 13-in. (3-L) glass baking dish. Turn dough into dish. With lightly floured fingers, evenly press dough into dish. Using a fork, gently prick dough at ½-in. (1-cm) intervals. Bake in centre of preheated oven just until top is golden, 50 to 55 min. Remove dish to a rack and gently prick again. Cut into squares while still warm. Cool completely in pan. Store in an airtight container in a cool place up to 1 week or freeze up to 1 month.
How to roll icebox cookie dough
Stir 2 tsp (10 mL) instant-coffee granules or 1 tsp (5 mL) instant-espresso powder and 2 tsp (10 mL) finely grated lemon peel into flour along with salt. Prepare dough. Using floured hands, pinch off about 1 tbsp (15 mL), then shape into a small log. Place on an oiled baking sheet. Repeat. Bake 22 to 25 min. When cool, finely chop 6 oz (168 g) white chocolate. Microwave on medium, stirring halfway through until almost melted, 3 min. Stir until smooth. Dip half of each cookie in chocolate. Set on a wax-paper-lined baking sheet until firm. Makes 32.
Stir 1 tbsp (15 mL) chopped fresh rosemary or 1 tsp (5 mL) crumbled dried rosemary and 1/2 tsp (2 mL) hot red-chili flakes (optional) into flour along with salt. Prepare dough and divide into 2 portions. Place each in a 9-in. (23-cm) buttered pie plate. Press evenly into dishes. Sprinkle edges with 2 tsp (10 mL) chopped fresh rosemary (optional). Don’t use dried rosemary for this garnish. Bake 45 to 55 min. Slice each disc into 12 wedges while still warm. Makes 24.
Stir 3/4 tsp (4 mL) curry powder into flour along with salt. Prepare dough. Place 3/4 cup (175 mL) sweetened desiccated coconut in a small bowl. Using floured hands, pinch about 1 tbsp (15 mL) dough, then roll into a ball. Roll in coconut. Place on an oiled baking sheet at least 2 in. (5 cm) apart. Repeat. Bake 22 to 25 min. Makes 32.
Measure out 1/2 cup (125 mL) dried cranberries, then chop. Stir into flour with 2 tsp (10 mL) finely grated orange peel. Using floured hands, pinch off about 1 tbsp (15 mL), then roll into a ball. Place on an oiled baking sheet at least 2 in. (5 cm) apart. Press a dried cranberry into top of cookie. Repeat. Bake 25 to 30 min. Makes 32.
Nutrition (per serving)
Shortbread Variation: Prepare recipe using rum flavouring instead of vanilla and stir 1 tsp (5 mL) nutmeg into flour along with salt. For topping, stir 2 tbsp (30 mL) icing sugar with 1/2 tsp (2 mL) nutmeg. Sift over cooled baked bars. Makes 36.