Friday, June 18, 2010

Vanilla Shortbread Cookies

I clipped this recipe from the May 2009 Cooking Light magazine and it sat in my dessert recipe binder with the best of intentions. Last night, I needed a quick recipe to throw together for a finger food potluck. I was out the door, with this tasty little morsels in hand (still warm), in just under an hour. I followed the recipe exactly (with one minor substitution) and received the expected results and an unexpected compliment.
This is the tag that went with the cookie recipe: "This half-oil, half-butter version yields a crisper, more delicate cookie," says Cooking Light Advisory Panelist Greg Drescher of the Culinary Institute of America.

Vanilla Shortbread Cookies

Cooking spray
9 oz. all-purpose flour (about 2 c.)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Line bottom and sides of a 13 x 9–inch baking pan with foil; coat foil with cooking spray, and set aside.

3. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, cornstarch, and salt in a large bowl; stir with a whisk.

4. Place butter in a medium bowl or bowl of a stand mixer; beat with a mixer at medium speed 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add oil; beat with a mixer at medium speed 3 minutes or until well blended. Gradually add sugar, beating well. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean, and add seeds to butter mixture; discard bean. Add flour mixture, beating at low speed just until blended. Spoon dough into prepared pan. Place a sheet of heavy-duty plastic wrap over dough; press to an even thickness. Discard plastic wrap. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool in pan 5 minutes on a wire rack; cut into 32 pieces. Carefully lift foil from pan; cool squares completely on a wire rack.

Substitution Suggestions: I didn't have canola oil, so I used vegetable oil instead. I'd probably stick to canola in the future, but vegetable will work just fine. If you really want more butter flavor, add a little butter extract -- flavor without the guilt. Don't use margarine or vanilla extract! Only the real thing will do for this recipe and I love seeing the tiny vanilla bean flecks in the cookie.

Lessons Learned: Don't soften your butter too much. I think mine was a little too soft, so it took extra time to get the butter and oil to combine.
The cornstarch may throw you for a loop, but that's part of what makes this cookie dissolve in your mouth so well. You will not taste the chalky flavor of the starch, I promise!
I measured my flour on the scale, not with a cup measure, for better accuracy. I am developing a new appreciation for my kitchen scale thanks to a fabulous book recently recommended to me: Ratio by Michael Ruhlman. (The book is totally rocking my cooking world!)

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