Are there ever times when you dine at a restaurant and you just want cookies for dessert? You don’t want chocolate to kill you. Or cheesecake to cost you another 1,000 calories. Perhaps a sweet little shortbread nibble is your ticket to a happy end? I feel that way often (especially after too many bites of steak and frites). And I know I’m not alone. Because as a pastry chef my after-dinner offerings of macarons and shortbread cookies proved more popular than the crème brûlée.
Lightly crisp shortbread that’s not too sweet
In my short time at the student-run Escoffier Restaurant, we received repeated requests from guests for “something small and light” for dessert. After escargot, short ribs and a cheese course, go figure. So I served French macarons until the process wore me out, and then began offering almond shortbread goodness.
Not just for cookies
What I love most about this shortbread recipe, is cookies are just the beginning. Since the dough calls for an egg which provides structure, it works great as a pastry crust. Say in lieu of a cookie dough-style crust for strawberries ‘n’ cream tarts, when the season is right. Love chocolate? Check out my chocolate shortbread cookies, which are a wonderfully decadent holiday treat. Add a bit more citrus zest and some jam and you’ve got yourself Linzer cookies. My clients in Malibu LOVED Linzers baked from this dough as a light after-lunch treat.
If you routinely keep a little butter at room temperature like I do, you can whip these up in a flash. Standard creaming method: beat butter+sugar, add egg+vanilla, add flours and DONE. The whole process takes ten minutes tops.
The rolling madness
Always chill any type of dough for a bit so the gluten proteins can relax after all that roughhousing in the mixer. Then when you first begin rolling, press the rolling pin firmly but gently across the dough to get you started in a round direction (photo above). Only use flour to prevent sticking when necessary. This dough shouldn’t require much during rolling, but do dip your cutter in flour to be sure your formed shapes will pop out with ease.
These really are SO easy, and SO quick. Even counting the chilling, you’ll be enjoying sweet, crumbly cookies in less time than it takes to complete a load of laundry. And they’re GREAT with coffee in the afternoon. I can’t tell you from personal experience, but I’ve also heard they’re great with coffee at the crack of dawn. Just wanted to pass that on.Print
The cookie cutter I use for these little ditties is pretty small – between one and two-inches wide – so I get A LOT of cookies from one batch. If you don’t want as many, you can freeze any portion of the dough for a month or two.
- 4 oz butter (1 stick), room temperature
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 egg
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup almond flour (ground almonds)
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- Sliced almonds, for decoration, optional
- Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting
- With a hand mixer or stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat together butter and sugar on medium speed until smooth and light in color. Add egg and beat until smooth. Scrape down bowl with spatula.
- Sift together flour, almond meal and salt. In several additions and beating on low speed, add dry ingredients to mixer, scraping the bowl often. Form dough into a flat disk, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for two hours minimum.
- Preheat oven to 375° F. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough with a floured rolling pin to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut cookies to the size of your choice, dipping cutter into flour often to easily release cookies.
- For optional decoration, lightly press a sliced almond into the center of each cookie.
- Bake at 375° F until edges of cookies just begin to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Cool completely on cookie sheet. Store in an airtight container for a few days, or freeze.
- To serve, dust with confectioner’s sugar.
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