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Shortbread: The Best Cookie

Lemon Thyme Shortbread Cookies

I’m a secret cookie hater. Ok, not cookie hater. It’s that I prefer cookies where you can actually taste something besides sugar. I'm also not big on the fancy icing and decorations, they always seem to be taste better than they look. So this year, for the annual Serious Eats cookie swap, I decided to make a shortbread that veers a little towards the savory and aromatic side. I couldn’t seem to find a definitive shortbread recipe that fit my ideal criteria - a little crumbly and not overly sweet - but came away with a few tips:

  • Using a finer-grained sugar like caster or confectioner’s produces a smoother texture.
  • I noticed that some shortbread recipes call for egg, but I decided it against it. I was afraid that I’d lose the crumbly texture and veer more towards a chewy cookie.
  • Adding a ton of lemon zest won’t hurt.
  • Try to find the best/highest quality butter you can. Wayne scored some kind of grassfed organic butter from Organic Valley with a high butterfat content that had that strong buttery smell when you open up the wrapper. I'd go for Kerrygold or Plugras as well. Since shortbread is made mostly from butter that’ll make a big difference in the end.
  • Use salted butter instead of unsalted to avoid the overly grainy texture. 
  • Creaming the sugar is important, don’t skip that!

Lemon Thyme Shortbread

Yield: 72 1/2 inch rounds
Adapted from this recipe

Ingredients: 

  • 1.5 cups salted butter 
  • 1 cup powdered sugar 
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • lemon zest from 2 large lemons 
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice 
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, stems removed 
  • 3 cups flour

Procedure:

  1. Mash the salt and fresh thyme with a mortar and pestle. The goal is to release the oils from the thyme leaves and to break down the kosher salt crystals. 
  2. Cream the butter and powdered sugar together. I used a KitchenAid stand mixer with the paddle attachment, but whatever floats your boat. 
  3. Add the salt-thyme mixture, two teaspoons of the lemon zest and lemon juice and turn the mixer back on low until these ingredients are incorporated evenly. Reserve the additional lemon zest for later.
  4.  Add the flour and turn the mixer on low to medium. It’s done when the mixture pulls up from the sides of the bowl and clumps on the paddle. 
  5. Wad the dough up into two equally sized flat discs. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. 6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
  6. Place the dough on a floured surface. Sprinkle some lemon zest on evenly as you roll the dough out to a 1/4 inch thickness. The rolling action will incorporate the lemon zest into the dough. Remember to use half the zest on the first piece of dough. 
  7. Cut out pieces at your desired shape and size and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, but be sure to check at the 10 minute mark. The edges should be golden brown. 
  8. Remove from oven and place baking sheet on a cooling rack. You can optionally sprinkle with a little kosher salt as soon as they come out of the oven for a salty kick.
  9. Enjoy!
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