Friday, May 11, 2012

Slice and Bake Shortbread Cookies {Two Ways}

Are one of those people who just can't go visit a friend empty handed?  I certainly am.  When we get invited to a friends house for a meal, I always volunteer to bring something.  It's usually dessert, my addiction.  But I'm also the first to volunteer to take a meal to a new mom or a sick friend.  To me sharing food with others is like sharing a bit of myself and showing that other person how much I care about them.  It's a big part of the reason I love cooking so much.
Earlier this week one of my good friends gave birth to her first baby.  She's a beautiful little peanut- I always forget how small new babies are!  She came at the end of a very long labor and delivery ordeal and I knew my girlfriend and her husband were thrilled but totally overwhelmed and exhausted.  When I was finally given notice that they were up for visitors, I had about a half hour to get out of my gardening clothes and get over there so that we would have time to visit and still get the oldest to his volleyball practice on time.
I couldn't just go empty handed, but what could I bring with that little time?  Food, of course.  Having had to kids myself and a few hospital stays, I knew that the food probably wasn't four-star quality.  Does anyone really eat that stuff?  Blech!  So I threw my oven on, grabbed some cookie dough out of my freezer, sliced them up and let them bake while I made myself presentable.  So that, at the very least, my sweet friend would have some quite warm, but tasty, cookies to nibble on during those midnight (and 3 am, 6 am.....) feedings.
Slice and Bake Shortbread Cookies
Makes about 4 dozen cookies
For a printable version, click here.

This is a beautiful, buttery base for so many cookies.  You can keep them plain, but I like to add a bit of something.  I've given two of my favorite variations in the recipe.  The first is a cookie that I first tasted when living in Northwest Washington- a rosemary pine nut cookie.  Don't be afraid, the rosemary isn't overwhelming.  It just add a bit of an herbal quality to the buttery cookie.  The second cookie is an Earl Gray tea flavored cookie.  I love to infuse teas into my baking.  I recently made a chai infused madelieine that was divine, and my chai spiced chocolate crackle cookie is the most popular post on my blog For this cookie, I went more subtle, but just as delicious with an Earl Gray and orange combination.  Both variations are sublime and worth making some extra to stash in the freezer for your own cookie emergency.  The beauty of the slice and bake cookie is that you don't have to make all of them at once and storing them is as easy as throwing them in the freezer.

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 sticks butter (16 tbs), room temperature
3 cups plus 3 tbs all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 large egg

For the Earl Gray cookies:
zest of 1 medium orange
2 1/2 tsp crushed good quality Earl Gray tea (loose of from about 2 tea bags)

For the rosemary pine nut cookies:
1/2 cup chopped pine nuts
2 tbs finely chopped rosemary

In the bowl of a stand mixer (though you could certainly use a hand mixer, or if you have strong arms do this by hand) beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Add the vanilla and egg and beat until incorporated.  Add the flour and baking powder and mix of low speed until completely mixed in.  Divide the dough in half.  Roll each half into a log about 2 inches in diameter and 12 inches long.  If you like, you can roll the logs in coarse sugar (I used raw sugar for my Earl Gray cookies).  Wrap each log in plastic wrap or parchment paper and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.  Alternately, you can place the wrapped logs in a freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Remove the cookies from the refrigerator (If using dough from the freezer, let it thaw slightly.  This will make it easier to slice without causing the dough to crumble).  Using a serrated knife, slice the dough into 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices.  Place the slices onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake for about 10 minutes.  You want the cookies to be set, but not to brown.  So watch carefully for the last couple of minutes.  Let cool on the cookie sheet for one minute, then remove the cookies with a spatula to cool completely on a baking rack.

To make the Earl Gray cookies:
Add the orange zest along with the egg and vanilla.  Mix the tea in with the flour and baking powder.

To make the rosemary pine nut cookies:
Add the rosemary and pine nuts along with the flour and baking powder.


  1. I ADORE making shortbread this way. You just can't go wrong with butter and flour :) These flavors are wonderful!

    I can't believe you were at McGrath yesterday too! Small world!

    1. Very small world indeed! I think the the world would be a better place if everyone had a little more butter, flour and sugar in their lives!