Ken Lima-Coelho of the Heebee-Jeebees is one of my favourite people at CBC. When he raved about his wife’s amazing whipped shortbread-a variety I tend to not make myself-I had to give them a go.
If there was one single quintessential North American Christmas cookie, this light, sandy-textured shortbread with the little bit of glacé cherry on top might just beat out the gingerbread man. It’s been at least ten years since I’ve whipped shortbread; I tend to default to the dense, Scottish kind. But Ken and Tara persuaded me to give it a go this year. You make it by beating the butter until it’s very light, then adding icing sugar (which amounts to 1/4 cup of regular sugar so really lower in sugar than most cookies, although they don’t taste it) and a high quantity of cornstarch, which lacking gluten, gives it a chalky, as Ken put it, texture. In a good way.
The formula for whipped shortbread is pretty standard: butter, sugar, flour and cornstarch (or rice flour) in slightly varied quantities. When Em and I made another batch for her to bring to her school party, we added a drop of vanilla paste and a pinch of salt, and pressed the dough balls down with the back of a spoon instead of a fork. They would also do well with a cookie stamp.
These cookies would also take on flavours well – if you wanted them lemon or orange, you could add the finely grated zest to the butter-sugar mixture as you creamed it.
Also; Tara bakes hers at 300F for 25-30 minutes, until they’re set but not browned. I’m a little more impatient and baked mine at 350F for 12-14 minutes, until they were very pale golden around the edges. Either way.
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract or paste (optional)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornstarch
Preheat the oven to 350F. With an electric mixer, beat the butter for a good minute or two, until light and pale. Add the icing sugar and vanilla and beat for another minute.
Add the flour, cornstarch and salt; beat just until you have a soft, smooth dough. Roll into 1-inch balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Press each down with a fork, the bowl of a spoon or a cookie stamp.
Makes about 2 dozen cookies.