Many of us who take great pleasure from cooking and baking also find immense joy in a really great cookbook. I would be willing to bet that most of us have a handful of favorites that stick out from the rest, that we can flip through in our minds even with our eyes closed. One of those at the tip top of my personal list is Bouchon Bakery. The photos are breathtaking. The writing is genuine. Each time I page through it, I am simultaneously overcome with the urge to bake it all right now! while also wanting to just stop and savor it. To bake from it on occasion, so that each time I do is like a special treat in and of itself.

Even a confection as simple as shortbread is made more enjoyable with the precision and careful instructions of Thomas Keller and company. Rarely does a recipe require me to use a ruler for even sizing and straight edges, but the perfectionist in me is more than happy to oblige.  I hardly need to sing the praises of the shortbread itself. If you have had truly good shortbread, you already know – it is an excellent example of simplicity at its finest. They are also a sturdy cookie, making them perfect for gifting as I did with these. It’s probably for the best as I find the tender, buttery crumb completely irresistible.  Who wouldn’t?

  • Yield about 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • 180 grams (6.3 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 90 grams (½ cup) granulated sugar, plus more for dusting*
  • 2 grams (½ + 1/8 tsp.) kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 270 grams (1¾ cups + 3 tbsp.) all-purpose flour

Directions

  • 01

    In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium-low speed until smooth. Add in the sugar and salt and continue to mix on medium-low until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Blend in the vanilla extract and the seeds scraped from the vanilla bean pod.

  • 02

    Add the flour in two additions, mixing each just until incorporated. Scrape down the bowl once more. Transfer the dough to a work surface and form into a 5-inch square block. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (or up to 2 days.)

  • 03

    Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Preheat to 325˚ F. Line baking pans with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. Unwrap the dough and sandwich between two pieces of parchment paper or plastic wrap. With a rolling pin, pound the top of the dough working from one side to the other, beginning to flatten it. Turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat. Continue rolling the dough out into a 9-inch square. (If the dough becomes too soft at any time, slide it onto a sheet pan and refrigerate until firm enough to score.) With a large knife and a ruler, score the dough horizontally 3 times (to make four 2¼-inch strips). Then score vertically 5 times (to make six 1½-inch strips.)

  • 04

    Cut through the markings. Dust the tops of the shortbread with additional granulated sugar. Arrange the shortbread on the prepared baking pans, spacing evenly. Bake until pale golden brown, rotating the pans halfway through baking, about 17-19 minutes total. Let cool briefly on the baking pans, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

  • 05

    Notes: 

    • I used vanilla sugar for the sugar in the dough as well as to dust the tops of the cookies. It is a great way to enhance the vanilla flavor if you are so inclined. To make vanilla sugar, simply add spent vanilla bean pods to an airtight container with a few cups of sugar and let sit for a few days to infuse with the vanilla flavor.
    • Measuring by weight will yield better and more consistent results in your baking. If you haven’t invested in a kitchen scale yet, I highly encourage you to do so! I use mine almost every day.

Source

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