Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Cashew Shortbread Cookies

Shortbread cookies befuddle me. I have made many a shortbread cookie and they almost always get good reviews, but they seem to always leave me doubting the final product. Is it too crisp? Too floury? Did I bake it too long? Is the texture right? One of the reasons I find them so confusing is that you are not supposed to achieve browning, which always leaves me worried to overbake which inevitably leads to me underbaking. Also, there are two general methods by which to make the dough and they seem in direct conflict with one another. The first method, the method I generally use, is to use really cold butter and to cut it in to your flour and sugar until it is like sand. Then you mix it with you hands just enough to get the dough to come together, careful not to manhandle it and get the butter all melty. I believe this is in an effort to produce tiny pockets of butter in the dough in order to yield a crisp light cookie. The other method is to use a mixer or food processor to blend the butter into the dry mix until it all holds together. This seems to me that it would end up overblending the mix and making a tighter, less delicate texture to the cookie. I had never actually tried this method before though so I thought it was time to give it a shot. Behold the Cashew Shortbread Cookie!
The recipe for this cookie came out of a Land O'Lakes cookie book. This is an interesting fact because the thing I liked least about these cookies was the butter and I had used store brand butter. I am seriously beginning to doubt the quality of this store brand butter as anything that relies on the butter to come out well (like my ultra greasy Bocca Di Nonna) comes out greasy and has strange results. For example, the first portion of this recipe called for me to brown the butter for the dough (and also some for a frosting that was never made). I have browned butter before, just recently as a matter of fact when I was at my mom's house making browned butter frosting with Dayna. The strange thing that happened was instead of my butter browning, little FLECKS of my butter browned and almost burnt while it left the rest of the liquid golden and clear. This was when I gave up on the browning and poured off the liquid and threw away the bits. I then had to let the butter sit in the fridge for some hours until it hardened up again to make the dough. I then mixed the resolidified, not browned, butter into the rest of the dough ingredients according to the recipe. This was blended together with finely chopped cashews and then rolled into balls (another thing I've never done with shortbread!) before placing them on the cookie sheet. The cooled cookies were supposed to be frosted, but given Favorite's dislike of frosting, I chose to simply push a cashew half into the top of each cookie while they were still warm and pliable.

All in all these cookies came out alright. The bottoms of the cookies spread a little too much and ended up browning, they were a little greasy, and as I suspected they did not acquire the delicate texture I think a shortbread should have. If I were to make these cookies again I think I would try better butter and go back to my old cutting in the butter technique. As a matter of fact, I may just start buying better butter either way as I am tired of my cookies coming out funny and would like to see if my store brand butter is the culprit.


  1. Curse you, Store Brand Butter!!

  2. Kerri!!! These cookies are too cute for words. I only wished you had remembered them for our meeting the other day and hadn't left them in your drawer at work. My approach would have been to nibble around the corners, leaving the tasty cashew center for last. They look magnificent. I would have found some way to make a cashew browned butter frosting for them. Yum. My belly is growling just thinking. But the big question is - what did you bake for meat fest? I have some babkas in the oven!