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Hi all-

I'm attempting to make the Lemon Confit Shortbread Tart that was in the January 31st Dining Section of the New York Times ("When Life Hands You Lemons, Make Pasta and Confit")... And my shortbread crust is so crumbly that it won't meld into a ball to be refridgerated for the prescribed amount of time. They DO warn that it might seem "very dry at first," but we're way beyond "at first" at this point. Not being a particularly confident baker, I'm not sure how to remedy the situation... Any quick fixes? Add another egg?

I consulted another shortbread recipe I have (one that's NOT intended to be a tart crust, however) and saw that their ratio of flour to butter is considerably smaller. The NY Times recipe calls for 3 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, 2 sticks butter, 1 egg, 1/4 tsp of almond extract and 2 tblsp lemon juice. Does that sound like a reasonable amount to any of you?

Thanks for listening to the anxious rantings of an inexperienced baker... And thanks for any advice!

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I'm not a pro, but I do make a shortbread crust for some cheesecakes, and the ratio of flour to butter is fairly similar... I use 1 stick of butter to 1 1/2 cups flour. I assemble the ingredients like I was making biscuits... First I sift the flour with 1/4 cup sugar and 1 1/2 tsp. salt, then I grate frozen butter in and pinch it with my fingers until evenly distributed & mealy, working as fast as I possibly can. To this I add the liquid (one egg yolk beaten with 1 tbsp. heavy cream and 1/2 tsp. almond extract beaten together) using a spatula until only just combined, press it into the bottom of my springform pan, then freeze it for about 20 minutes before baking, to reduce the puffy effect.

This is going to sound silly, but any chance you accidentally put in an extra cup of flour? I've done it... maybe not with this recipe, but with others, and with enough regularity that I always measure out my flour separately and count OUT LOUD when I do so! *grin* I plead SieveBrain syndrome caused by raising five children, all of whom were teenagers at once time...

Good luck... I'm sure someone else here will have a more helpful response!

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Thanks for the input... I am ALWAYS anxious that I haven't counted correctly, so I'm afraid you might be right about the amount of flour... If that IS my problem (and I don't know how I'd figure it out), what would you do? Add more butter? Start anew?

This is part of what keeps me away from baking experiments-- I'm more of the "add a little pinch of something here, and a fistful of something there" sort of girl. This requires more accuracy than I'm used to!

Thanks again...

ella

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Hee. If it were me, rather than try to increase everything by 1/3, I'd throw it out and start again. ;) But... it shouldn't be too terribly hard to figure if you aren't as lazy as I am when it comes to such things!

I'm not a cook who follows a recipe, either, which also kept me from baking for the longest time... especially bread. Until I had actually, successfully made some that came out right, I couldn't gauge the way the dough should feel, and the vague "6-8 cups flour" type listings were very frustrating! After a while, you get the "feel" for it and the only reason I pull out my daily bread recipe (which I wound up developing myself, based on one in my KitchenAid mixer book!) is to make sure I don't spaz out and forget to add something... I can be a little distracted in the kitchen (hence the care with measuring flour!)

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You could try pressing the crust into the pan and using it as is. For my cheesecakes I use 1 c flour, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 c sugar, 1/4 c butter and one egg yolk, pulsed in the FP. This makes crumbs which I press into the bottom of the pan and bake. It holds together very nicely when baked and cooled. Or, for a tart I use 2 cups flour, 1/2 cup butter and one egg. I add water a tbsp at a time until it can form a ball and then chill and then roll out. I'd say that if you are sure that you added all the ingredients and it's just a little dry, I'd try adding water a tsp at a time just till it will hold together. I'd rather try this first before throwing everything out.

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  • 6 years later...

A friend recently gave me her Mother's wonderful shortbread cookie recipe and advised me that that the sugar and butter had to be creamed by hand and then the flour mixed in by hand also...or else the cookies would not be the same as her Mother's were.

Could this be true? And why should it be so?

BTW, I creamed by hand mixer and mixed by hand and the shortbreads were exquisite.

Edited by Darienne (log)

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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I've always used a mixer and mine comes out just fine.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Did you notice a difference between the ones you creamed by hand and the ones you made with a mixer? It doesn't seem that your friend was saying they wouldn't be good if you used a mixer. They'd still be good, just not the same as her mother's. The difference would be in the texture, since using a mixer would incorporate a bit more air. If your friend is used to eating them the way her mother always made them, she might be able to tell the difference whereas others might not.

I keep searching for the "perfect" shortbread cookie. I've never met a shortbread I didn't like, but I have yet to find one that made me feel the search was over. Are you able to share your friend's recipe?

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Sorry, perhaps I wasn't clear enough in my first post. I creamed the butter and sugar by hand mixer and then mixed the flour in by hand. Two processes in one batch of cookies.

And my friend pronounced my cookies as excellent. She doesn't have time to make cookies this year and so maybe she was just being a tad kind. Don't know.

I'll pm you the recipe.

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Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 3 years later...

Hi

I am new to this site and also new to baking.  I am busy with a venture that requires shortbread and have a slight problem.  My shortbread is too soft and lacks a 'snap', I know original shortbread should be crumbly, but once I pack my shortbread it breaks and therefore does not handle well.  What can I do to get a crunch and make it a little harder but not tough?  

My recipe is:

345g flour

230g butter (77g butter and 154 creaming margarine)

115g castor sugar

Baked at 160 degree celcius for 30min

 

I cream the butter with a small handheld mixer (about 1.5min) and then work the dry ingredients in for another 2min and then press into a tray.  Can anybody assist?

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It may just be under baked since you say it is soft, though in my convection oven 30 min at 160 C should bake most cookies nice and golden.  How thick is the layer in your baking pan and what is the pan made of?

 

Working the dry ingredients for 2 minutes sounds like  a very long time.  Cream the butter until it is smooth, it doesn't have to be super light and fluffy for most shortbread.  Then mix in the flour just until it is combined.  Focus on how the dough looks and feels rather than on time, both for mixing and baking.

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Look for recipes that contain cornstarch as that is the secret to crisp shortbread. I would stay away from margarine also but that is a personal preference and I don't know if it would change the crispness of the cookie but certainly would be reflected in the taste.

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"Flay your Suffolk bought-this-morning sole with organic hand-cracked pepper and blasted salt. Thrill each side for four minutes at torchmark haut. Interrogate a lemon. Embarrass any tough roots from the samphire. Then bamboozle till it's al dente with that certain je ne sais quoi."

Arabella Weir as Minty Marchmont - Posh Nosh

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Let me revise that suggestion a bit. Recipes need to have rice flour as an ingredient....not cornstarch. Search English websites for these. US website recipes have cornstarch as an ingredient. Texture of the shortbread is different depending on whether you use rice flour or cornstarch.

"Flay your Suffolk bought-this-morning sole with organic hand-cracked pepper and blasted salt. Thrill each side for four minutes at torchmark haut. Interrogate a lemon. Embarrass any tough roots from the samphire. Then bamboozle till it's al dente with that certain je ne sais quoi."

Arabella Weir as Minty Marchmont - Posh Nosh

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On 2/4/2017 at 2:48 AM, pastrygirl said:

Working the dry ingredients for 2 minutes sounds like  a very long time.

 

Less mixing = less gluten development = weaker shortbread, not stronger.  The amount of water in butter is minimal, so less or more mixing isn't going to make that much of a difference to texture, but if the OP wants strength, less mixing is the wrong direction, imo.

Edited by scott123 (log)
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32 minutes ago, Soupcon said:

Recipes need to have rice flour as an ingredient.

 

Rice flour, in a recipe with some water, might produce a crispier and product, but, in this recipe, it's not going to lend the shortbread any structural integrity.

 

Some form of liquid (water, egg, etc.) would be the most sure fire way of gaining handling ability, but it would also risk toughness, and also perhaps stray from authenticity.  I would bet you any amount of money that Walker's get's an end product capable of being shipped by pressing their cookies.  If your baking pan is stackable, you might try pressing down on the shortbread very hard with another pan.  You could also find something rigid, square and flat that you could use to tamp the shortbread in the pan. That might give you the structural integrity you're looking for.

 

Or, you could try water- perhaps with a very fine sprayer.  But, like I said, be careful.

Edited by scott123 (log)
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Creaming has nothing to do with water, longer mixing of the butter and sugar creates more air bubbles, which make a finished product lighter and fluffier. Good in cake, but if op wants a denser dough, adding less air is one way to go. 

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Shortbread needs 100% butter to work properly. The following is a recipe I use when making the shortbread layer for millionaire shortbread, and works for me without a problem. 

 

Shortbread:
187g butter
157g caster sugar
210g cake flour
45ml cornflour
3ml salt

 

For the shortbread:

  • Beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  • Sift the flour, cornflour and salt together and mix into the butter and sugar mixture until a stiff dough has formed.
  • Press into a greased and lined 20 x 24cm rectangular Swiss roll tin. Prick with a fork and bake in a preheated oven at 180°C (160°C for convection oven) for 10 minutes then reduce the temperature to 160°C (140°C for convection oven) and bake for a further 10 minutes.

 

 

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Cape Town - At the foot of a flat topped mountain with a tablecloth covering it.

Some time ago we had Johnny Cash, Bob Hope and Steve Jobs. Now we have no Cash, no Hope and no Jobs. Please don't let Kevin Bacon die.

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Just a quick question to the OP - how thick is your dough layer once "pressed into a tray"? 

Cape Town - At the foot of a flat topped mountain with a tablecloth covering it.

Some time ago we had Johnny Cash, Bob Hope and Steve Jobs. Now we have no Cash, no Hope and no Jobs. Please don't let Kevin Bacon die.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi there,

 

I just came across these forums by chance (it was probably the 20th link I looked at when looking for the best lemon curd recipe?). I can't believe I've never seen or heard of it before after 10+ years on the Internet. It surprises me that it's not very widely-known though it seems so much more informative than other more widely-known food sites like chowhound (which reminds me more of Yahoo! Answers...). It seems like there is a large professional presence here and everyone seems very helpful. I wasn't going to post as it seemed out of my league, but after browsing a lot more I noticed some home bakers as well... And I came across many older posts for "Best X Recipe" which were extremely informative and interesting. I honestly read 30+ pages of these kinds of topics. It seems like that kind of thing is no longer being done so I hope this topic doesn't end up being out of place, but I've been assigned the task of finding the best shortbread recipe. And eGullet seems to do this kind of thing best.

 

I always thought of shortbread as a basic, standard recipe, and did not think it would be too difficult to narrow down. But there are actually so many different recipes! Which is why I think I need help. Now, I've been assigned this from a 'purist'... i.e 'real' shortbread is just flour, sugar, and butter. But I've seen lots of recipes online that add cornstarch, salt, rice flour, etc. I was hoping to find the best 'purist' recipe and a best 'non-purist' recipe (unless the purist recipe is still better! That would be ideal, actually...) and I was thinking of doing a blind taste test to see if this purist actually thinks the other recipe is significantly better... I personally think shortbread tastes much better with salt, but I've noticed that 'shortbread' shouldn't really have salt in it...

 

My confusion stems from the fact that I don't really know what good shortbread is (I am somewhat of a foodie fail... I think pretty much everything tastes good [everything homemade--there are a lot of store-bought goods I don't like]. I'm trying to improve!). This is really why I need help from the professionals here. I understand everyone has their preferences, but there must be some kind of standard that makes shortbread, shortbread. And shortbread, good shortbread. I mean, how else can places sell stuff labelled 'shortbread'? Is it possible to come up with a general definition for good shortbread?

 

Through research, it seems some people say shortbread should be gritty. So some recipes even add rice flour. But we've all tried a rice flour version and the general consensus was that it was not good (including the purist). I think crumbly would be better than gritty (but what do I know)? I've also seen people saying cornstarch is their secret ingredient for a creamy cookie. Some add vanilla, some use icing sugar (which has cornstarch anyways...), some use granulated... I would like to know which ingredients produce the best results.

 

Also, how important is technique? Cooks Illustrated presented a different technique for sugar cookies - they use the reverse creaming method which produces a tender, crisper cookie with less air bubbles.

 

And I'd like to start another topic on this later, but I would really like to try using the 'tang mian' method for cookies, purely as an experiment... Unless anyone can advise against it with the science. It's a method for cakes which cooks the flour and butter to 65C first before mixing in the rest of the ingredients. Because the fat coats the flour, gluten does not form when it hits the liquid. I know there's no liquid in shortbread, so it won't serve that exact purpose, but I'd just like to see the results... Because it seems to essentially serve the same purpose as the reverse creaming method, except it's cooked. It'd be neat to compare. And considering that the water in butter would evaporate a bit during that process, the result could be favourable? More fat is always yummier?

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