Sunday, May 3, 2009

Hearst Castle Shortbread

This is a recipe I came across online. I'm sorry I don't remember the exact website but the source is from The Castle Cookbook by Marjorie Collard. Supposedly this was a popular shortbread cookie recipe when the Hearst Castle was bustling with kitchen staff and folks visiting from all over. The kitchen staff put together this cookbook with all of the favorite recipes from the mansion. I will type the recipe as I found it BUT I made one change and that was to substitute 1/4 of the all purpose flour with rice flour. This cookie has such a delicate and light texture. It's not a heavy shortbread at all. It's quick to put together and the dough is easy to handle. You can probably really do some fun experimenting with this dough - maybe add almond flavoring or lemon zest or cardamon or coconut extract with some mini chocolate chips. I meant to dip half of my finished cookies in chocolate but it got too late so they will stay plain. Half of my batch I sprinkled with a white sparkling sugar. Those are crunchy and yummy! If you are looking for a good, easy shortbread cookie recipe then try this. You don't have to use the rice flour - make it as the recipe reads, with all purpose flour. Since these can be cut into any shape, they make such a wonderful gift for any occasion. You can also just roll out the dough and cut it into squares with a knife. They would taste just as delicious but would look a little more "rustic".

I bought my rice flour at Uwajimaya in Seattle but you can purchase it at any Asian grocery store. Only partially substitute this flour for all purpose. It adds a delicate crunch to cookies.

I made 1 1/2 recipes and so I used 6 sticks of butter! It was a lot of butter for not very many cookies.

The dough was very light and fluffy and easy to handle.

Here is my secret for rolling out dough. I put the blob of dough between 2 large pieces of parchment paper and roll it out that way. No extra flour is needed - which can dry out or toughen a cookie. Then, I slide the rolled out dough, parchment & all onto a cookie sheet and place it in the fridge or the freezer to cool. After it hardens a bit, I take out the cookie sheet, loosen the parchment on both sides by peeling it off and then start cutting with my cookie cutter. The dough is so easy to handle when it's slightly hardened. If the dough gets frozen, I let it soften a bit before cutting.
Since the dough is hardened, I can pop the cut shape right out of the cookie cutter with my hands & place it on the prepared cookie sheet.

Half of them are sprinkled with sparkling sugar & the rest are plain!
Ready to go in the oven!

Hearst Castle Shortbread

4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 pound unsalted butter (4 sticks)
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven 350%
Sift flour, baking powder & salt into bowl - set aside

In a mixing bowl, beat butter until light & fluffy. Add powdered sugar & keep beating. Beat in vanilla. Add the flour mixture slowly. Keep mixing until everything comes together in a thick dough.

Chill dough. (See my note above about rolling out dough). Roll out to desired thickness & cut with cookie cutter. (I roll out to between 1/4 - 1/2 inch thick). Place cut cookies onto parchment or silpat lined cookie sheet. Bake for 7-10 minutes or until the edges are lightly golden.

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