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very hard short bread

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 
Hello All

I have been playing in the kitchen with some shortbread recipes, family makes it alot over the holidays, and I want to join in the fun. However on the two recipes I have tried the end result is hard and very dry, not crumbly as short bread should be. The last recipe I used would not even need together, and I found myself adding more butter just to make a biscuit. I'm not sure what the issue is, I believe it is the recipes it self, but I don't know what to adjust to get melt in your mounth goodness, any suggestions as to what I am doing wrong.. My instinct says not enough butter.. Recipe last used below.

3 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 pond butter, or a little over 1/2 cup.

whisk sugar and butter together until fluffy, then add the flour and fold until most of the butter and flour are together, then knead into a dough. (should be very forgiving)
Roll out and cut with cookie cutter, or press into shortbread ,mold and bake at 350 degrees F for 20min, or until edges are golden brown.

I followed this to a tee, up until the knead when it would not come together, then I started adding butter, I as well added more sugar, I love extra sweet. I did sprinkle with sugar, and poked holes with a forlk, but no good cookie came from this. Why?
post #2 of 4
The proportions here are off. By weight, shortbread (usually, there are varients, of course) is three parts flour, two parts butter, one part sugar, and a touch of salt.

So, three cups flour is about 12 ozs.
which means we'd expect 8oz of butter -- two sticks, a cup -- and four ounces of sugar, about 5/8 cup.

What you're getting sounds like you're using too much flour. You may also be kneading too much, letting the butter get too warm, or some other problem.

Incidentally, I like to use light brown sugar for shortbread, and not white.
post #3 of 4
I both agree and disagree with dscheidt.

In agreement, one proportion is radically off. 1 pound of butter is not 1/2 cup -- and I suspect this is part of your problem. Each normal, American stick is 1/2 cup by volume and 4 oz by weight. 1 pound of butter is 2 cups. I have no idea how much a pond weighs, but I suspect it's more than a puddle and less than a lake.

In disagreement, the recipe proportions 3 volumes of flour to 1 of butter is on the "stiff" end of the normal range for butter, but also probably the most common proportion for shortbread. 2 volumes of flour to 1 of butter is very "short," and what cookie bakers called "meltaway." At the end of the day, this may be what you want. In any case, I have never seen or used a recipe calling for a 3:2 (by volume) ratio for shortbread. (Perhaps dscheidt is confusing weight with volume?)

So, your recipe with its 3 cups of flour needs between 1 to 1-1/2 cups by volume, which is 8 to 12 oz by weight, which is 2 and 3 sticks of butter to fit within the normal range.

Because we have no idea what your final ratios actually were, it's difficult to say whether the toughness resulted from proportional imbalance. I suspect not, actually. Just a guess (with a lot of between-the-lines reading), but it probably came from a combination of overworking and insufficient resting. Of course, the overworking itself was born in the bizarre proportion called for in your recipe. As the instructions said, the dough should be very soft and manageable -- very much like a pie crust. It should not be at all crumbly.

The best way to handle shortbread is to cream the butter very well, add all other ingredients except the flour, then add the flour in two or three stages with an eye toward using slightly less flour than the recipe calls for. Be careful not to overwork. Press the dough into a disk (or disks if it's a big recipe) and chill for at least half an hour to allow the gluten threads to relax. Roll out and cut into cookies or press into a pan and score, as you prefer. Shortbread is best baked in the 275F - 325F range. Watch your time carefully, the edges should either be not quite or just barely brown. Think more in terms of variations of shades of cream than "GBD."

If the ingredient list you gave was the entire list for your recipe, it's both dull and unforgiving. I'd like to see a little baking soda for tenderness, some salt and some vanilla (or something else) for flavor.

Good luck,
post #4 of 4
Thread Starter 
Thanks so much.. I'm going to try this tomorrow, light brown sugar, what a nice compliment to sweeten up the cookie...
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