Saturday, July 14, 2012

Lime Zest Shortbread Cookies

Hmm, shortbread cookies. I’ve never really been a huge fan of them; I always found them a little bland and boring in the grand scheme of the delicious cookie world. My sister Caroline has been obsessed with the shortbread cookies at a bakery in Pt. Reyes since before I can even remember. I would usually opt for a scone or lemon bar when we visited, while she’d sometimes buy out the entire stock of shortbreads for the day. My mom found this recipe from a friend at work, and I was of course speculative about them due to my aversion to boring cookies. She raved about them, so I gave them a try when my mom made them…and oh man, they were so good. The perfect texture, not crunchy or crumbly…just right. I think it truly helped that she used top-notch ingredients. By using Plugrá European style butter and vanilla bean paste instead of just extract, they were completely delicious. Not in anyway bland or boring. The recipe comes from the November 2011 issue of Fine Cooking magazine, and I decided to add in some lime zest to give them a summer kick. You can use lemon or orange zest instead if you’re feeling a different citrus, or just leave it out and have straight vanilla cookies.

You will need:

1 1/3 cups (12 oz) unsalted butter, softened
3 1/3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
1 tbsp vanilla bean paste
1 tbsp freshly grated lime zest
A 9x13 baking pan
(if you want an easier way to remove the cookies from the pan):
Cooking spray
Baking parchment paper

So I decided to make the cookies by lining the pan with parchment so that I could just pull them out and cut them; if you just want to cut them straight out of the pan, forget this step and just grease the pan. Spray the sides and bottom of the baking dish with cooking spray. Cut a piece of parchment paper so that it will fit perfectly in the bottom of the pan, with flaps sticking out over the long sides.

Measure out the flour, cornstarch and salt into a medium bowl and mix together with a whisk. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, vanilla and zest on medium speed until the mixture is smooth and creamy.

 Then add the flour mixture while the mixer is on low speed until it is all incorporated. 

Pour the dough into the baking pan, and press it down into an even layer across the bottom of the pan. I went by the magazine’s measurements, and used a ruler to cut them (but they still didn't come out perfectly even). Using a small paring knife cut the dough into your desired shapes/sizes. If you want rectangles, the cookies should be 1 inch by 2 ½ inches, and divides into about 40 cookies. 

Then prick each cookie with a fork to ensure that they bake evenly. 

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees, and while the oven is warming up stick the pan of cookies in the freezer. When the oven is ready, bake the cookies for 30-40 minutes until they are slightly golden. Do not wait until the pan is cooled to re-cut the cookies. Do it right after they are out of the oven, or else they will crumble when you try. Carefully pull the cookies out of the pan by grabbing the flaps of parchment, and lay them on a cutting surface. Cut the cookies down the lines you already made, then transfer them to a wire cooling rack to cool. They can be stored in an airtight container for up to 4 days after they have been baked. 

You can try substituting other flavors for the lime zest if you want…maybe orange, and then dip them in some dark chocolate? Or add some instant espresso granules to make them coffee-flavored. Mix it up. Have fun. Or plain old vanilla is good too. I think I’ll be donating these to a yard sale/bake sale that my sister Caroline is having with her friend this weekend. :) Nice summer-y cookie! Enjoy!

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