If there were only one cookie in the world, it would have to be this one, since it has so few ingredients, is so easy to mix, and is so versatile. Buttery and tender, with a perfectly balanced touch of sweetness, it is delightful in all shapes from round to wedges. It also makes the ideal base for lemon curd bar cookies (see the Lemon Butter Squares in The Cookie Bible). Mixing the dough in a food processor or by hand results in a more delicate texture than using a stand mixer.
Makes: 8 wedges
If you will be making these in the food processor: Thirty minutes ahead or longer, cut the butter into 1/2- inch cubes. Wrap and refrigerate.
If you will be making these by hand: Thirty minutes to one hour ahead, cut the butter into tablespoon-size pieces. Set on the counter to soften.
Prepare your pan. Set the tart pan on a cookie sheet and, if not nonstick, lightly coat with baking spray with flour.
In a food processor, process the sugars for one minute, or until the granulated sugar is very fine.
Add the butter and pulse until all the sugar coats the butter.
Add the flour and salt and pulse until the butter pieces are the size of tiny peas. The dough will be crumbly but will hold together when pinched.
Scrape the mixture into a plastic bag and, using your knuckles and the heels of your hands, press it together.
Transfer the dough to a large sheet of plastic wrap and use the wrap to knead it lightly just until it holds together. Makes 355 grams.
To prepare by hand, in a large bowl, whisk together the sugars and salt. (For the finest texture, use superfine sugar in place of the granulated sugar.) With a wooden spoon, mix in the butter until light and creamy. Add the flour and use your fingers to mix it in until incorporated. Continue with step five.
Roll the dough between sheets of plastic wrap into an eight- or nine-inch disc. Remove the bottom sheet and use the top sheet to press the dough into the tart pan. (Alternatively, using the bottom sheet of plastic wrap, lift the dough disc into an eight- or nine-inch round cake pan and use the top sheet to press it into the pan. Then lift it out of the pan and set it, without the plastic wrap, on a cookie sheet.)
Use the tines of a fork to press 3/4-inch lines, radiating to resemble sun rays, all around the perimeter of the dough. Prick the rest of the dough all over with the fork or a wooden skewer to help it bake evenly. With the tip of a sharp knife, score the dough into eight wedges, going almost to the bottom.
Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to set the design.
While the dough is chilling, set an oven rack at the middle level. Set the oven at 300 degrees Fahrenheit (150 degrees Celsius).
Bake for 30 minutes. Rotate the cookie sheet halfway around and continue baking for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the shortbread is pale golden.
Set the pan on a wire rack, and while the shortbread is still hot, cut along the score lines again. Cool completely in the pan.
If using a tart pan, unmold the shortbread. Use a thin-bladed sharp knife to cut the wedges all the way through.
Store airtight at room temperature or frozen for three months.
To unmold the shortbread from a tart pan, set the pan on top of a canister that is smaller than the bottom opening of the tart pan’s rim. Press down on both sides of the tart ring; it should slip away easily. Then carefully slide a long metal spatula between the bottom of the pan and the shortbread and slide it onto a cutting board. If it sticks, heat the bottom of the pan briefly by setting it on a hot surface, such as an inverted cake pan that has been filled with hot water, emptied, and dried.
Shape as rounds. This will make 24 one-and-a-half-inch round cookies.
Recipe excerpted from The Cookie Bible (Harvest, 2022) with permission from the publisher. Buy the book on Amazon.