These littles cookies are a cinch to make, their ingredients are pantry staples, and their variations endless. They are delicious plain and yet are quickly fancied up. Below is a standard recipe, with a few different options underneath (lavender, chocolate, lemon ... you pick). Behold the humble shortbread.
2 cups all-purpose flour
⅔ cup granulated sugar
2 sticks cold salted butter (if using unsalted, just add in 1/4 tsp. salt)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Pulse together flour, sugar and salt, if using, in a food processor.
Add butter and pulse to fine crumbs.
Pulse a few more times until some of the crumbs start to come together when you pinch it, yet overall the dough will be rather crumbly.
Line an ungreased 8 or 9 inch square baking pan with parchment paper. This isn't technically required and may seem a little fiddly, yet it makes removing the bars effortless, and really only takes a few min.
Press dough into an even layer then prick dough all over with a fork.
Bake until golden brown, about 35 to 40 minutes for the 9-inch square or pie pan, 45 to 50 minutes for the 8-inch.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Cut into squares, bars or wedges while still warm.
Lavender Shortbread: Add in 1/2-1 tsp dried lavender flowers, crush them a bit by rubbing them between your fingers before adding in.
Vanilla Bean Shortbread: Split a vanilla bean in half lengthwise and use the back of a knife to scrape out the pulp. Pulse the pulp into the flour-sugar mixture before adding butter. Or add up to 1 teaspoon vanilla extract with the butter.
Orange Shortbread: Add 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated orange (or lemon) zest with the flour. Add up to 1 teaspoon orange blossom water with the butter if desired. If you like the citrus poppyseed combo, you can add 2 tsp poppy seeds here.
Nut Shortbread: Grind 1/2 cup toasted nuts (pistachio are my favorite) in the food processor with the flour before combining with remaining ingredients. I love these then dipped in dark chocolate.
Spice or Seed Shortbread: Add up to 1 teaspoon spices, like ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg or cardamom, or seeds like caraway or anise.
Buckwheat Shortbread: Substitute up to 1/3 cup buckwheat flour for 1/3 cup of all-purpose flour. Delicious with Early Grey tea.
Chocolate Dipped Shortbread: Once cooled, dip into melted chocolate of choice and let dry/harden on a rack or tray lined with parchment paper.