As a person of Celtic extract, I should probably have some strong opinions on shortbread. This might be even more apparent to my friends who were around when I got into a mad bidding war on eBay and spent far too much money on a set of vintage shortbread molds emblazoned with Welsh dragons, Scottish thistles, Irish harps, and English roses (and they don’t even work very well, alas). I do have a few basic criteria: anything called shortbread definitely needs to have plenty of pure butter, no eggs, not be too sugary, and should be crisp, not chewy. I’m not too much of a purist when it comes to the difference between “shortbread” and “shortbread cookie” (traditionally, shortbread is pressed into a mold or formed in a disc, shortbread cookies are just that – rolled into a log and sliced or rolled flat and cut with cookie cutters), but apart from those simple rules, I’m game for a bit of experimentation – plain butter shortbread is a wonderfully simple treat, but there’s no need to stick with just that.
I found this recipe for Rosemary Shortbread a few years ago in Gourmet magazine, and since then it’s become one of my signature holiday cookies. The flavor of rosemary lends a romantic, early-winter mood which goes splendidly with tea. Its texture is both tender yet slightly crisp, and when decorated with little sprigs, makes a lovely and rustic gift when wrapped carefully in parchment and twine.
adapted from Gourmet magazine
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
superfine sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 300°F.
Whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, and rosemary in a bowl.
Mix together butter, honey, and confectioners sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at low speed, then add flour mixture and mix until dough resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps. Gather dough into a ball and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Knead dough until it just comes together, about 8 times. Halve dough and press each half evenly into a 9-inch pie or tart pan. Score dough into 8 wedges by pricking dotted lines with a fork. If you like, press a spring of rosemary onto the center of each wedge. Sprinkle dough lightly with superfine sugar.
Bake the shortbread until just golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool 5 minutes, then cut along score marks with a large heavy knife. Keep shortbread wedges in an airtight container.
* Pressing them into pans makes it easier to make a uniform shape, but if you like, the halves can be rolled into 8-inch discs and placed on baking sheets to cook.