Shortbread is a funny name for this cookie, but it has a logical origin. As Wikipedia explains: “Shortbread is so named because of its crumbly texture (from an old meaning of the word short). The cause of this texture is its high fat content, provided by the butter. The short or crumbly texture is a result of the fact that the fat inhibits the formation of long protein (gluten) strands. The related word “shortening” refers to any fat that may be added to produce a short (crumbly) texture.
Shortbread is different from shortcake, which can be similar to shortbread, but which can be made using vegetable fat instead of butter and always uses a chemical leavening agent such as baking powder, which gives it a different texture.”
While nothing could be simpler than making shortbread, I do have to say that it can be a difficult enterprise if your country is out of butter. One of the main staples of this very basic recipe IS butter, and Norway, where I work, is facing an ongoing and acute shortage. I live just across the border from Norway, so butter is plentiful for me… and I take butter-laden goods happily across the border to share cookies with my colleagues. Incidentally, I was stopped en route to the office the other morning around 4:00 by customs officers. (I was not carrying anything that interested them.) Perhaps I should have offered them some cookies if indeed these Norwegians are so deprived of butter. Shortbread tastes a lot like… eating slices of sweetened butter that melts softly in your mouth. Only nowhere near as disgusting as eating straight butter would be.
My recipe, as I chronicled about shortbread the other day, when I only had the faint intention of making shortbread of two varieties. I went ahead and made mine but not my friend’s recipe (that happens this weekend).
Use a shortbread/cookie mold or, as I have done, use a round cake pan.
Ingredients (I also mixed in some red and green sprinkles):
4 cups flour (approx 512g)
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar (156g)
1 teaspoon baking powder (4 g)
1/4 teaspoon salt (1.4g)
2 cups butter (452g)
Knead all ingredients together. Press into ungreased pans (or molds) and prick the top with a fork. Bake 45 minutes in oven preheated to 160C/325F