Holiday baking is upon us, and to say that I am excited would be an understatement. Shortbread is one of my favorite cookies. Its buttery crumbly simplicity is the perfect backdrop for subbing some regular flour for stronger flavored flours such as buckwheat. Rich and nutty in taste, this gluten free flour is not a wheat at all, but a seed, and pairs quite nicely with a full-bodied spice blend like chai. We’ve even provided a fully gluten free variation with buckwheat flour, brown rice flour and oat flour. So let’s get that holiday baking on!
This shortbread recipe is meant to be baked in a shortbread pan (or pie pan). The dough is very sticky and wouldn’t hold up well to being baked into individual cookies. Shortbread is essentially butter, flour and sugar. It is “short” in texture, which means crumbly. It isn’t supposed to rise or puff as it bakes. For this reason, it isn’t necessary to whip the butter and sugar for too long, only about a minute or so.
Once the butter and sugar are creamed together, all the other ingredients get added. Make sure to fully mix to get all that butter incorporated in. Little pockets of unmixed butter in the dough will create holes or tunneling in the finished shortbread. Since the buckwheat flour has such a robust flavor, I made sure the spices did too. The chai spice blend I use is from King Arthur Flour and is a mixture of ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, anise and black pepper. You can certainly make your own and there are a multitude of recipes online.
Once mixed, the dough will need to chill until firm. I tested out several ways to chill and then bake off. When chilled in a ball, log or disc, it was difficult and messy to then flatten out into the pan, especially a shortbread pan with a lot of detail in the design. I also tried buttering the pan, buttering and flouring the pan, and then decided to just put the dough right in the pan, ungreased, to chill. Bingo! Since there is so much butter in the dough, it had no problem coming out once baked off.
To flatten the dough out into the pan, first wet your hand under cold water. Gently shake off excess but keep wet. This will prevent your hand from sticking to the dough.
The cute pan above was provided by Nordic Ware. It is their Sweet Snowflakes Shortbread Pan. We are big fans of Nordic Ware, especially when it comes to their beautifully designed specialty pans. They also carry a square shortbread pan which is just as festive and fun.
Once the dough has chilled, it needs to be docked. This ensures the shortbread stays short, and doesn’t get puffy as it bakes.
Bake until the top is golden brown.
Once the shortbread has briefly cooled in the pan, place a large plate or baking pan over the shortbread pan. A flat surface to turn out onto will work better than a cooling rack because of the crumbliness. Turn the pan upside down and give it a whack to release shortbread. Gently cut into wedges and then allow it to finish cooling.
We hope your holidays are full of delicious baking. Let us know if you have any questions or comments. Happy baking!
BUCKWHEAT CHAI SHORTBREAD
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Inactive Time: 3-24 hours
345 g. (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, room temperature
114 g. (1 cup) confectioners’ sugar
120 g. (1 cup) buckwheat flour
240 g. (2 cups) all purpose flour
4 g. (1 tsp.) kosher salt
5 g. (1 tsp.) vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
2 g. (1 tsp.) chai spice blend
In the stainless steel bowl with the roller and scraper, cream together the butter and sugar, starting out on lowest (12 o’clock) speed. Gradually increase speed to medium (between 3 – 4 o’clock) and cream for 1 minute.
Add remaining ingredients and mix on low speed (1 o’clock) until thoroughly combined.
Divide batter between two shortbread pans (or two 8 inch pie pans lined with parchment paper.) Dip hand in cold water to prevent sticking to dough and pat out to make a smooth, even surface in pans. Cover and chill for at least 3 hours and up to a day.
Preheat oven to 350º F. Dock shortbread all over with a fork. Bake, uncovered, for 30-35 minutes, until beginning to brown.
Let cool in pan for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes place a large plate or baking pan over the shortbread pan. Turn upside down and give shortbread pan a firm whack to release shortbread. Alternately, gently lift parchment paper out of pie pans. Cut into wedges while still hot and then allow to fully cool.
Yield: 8 servings
WHOLE GRAIN/GLUTEN-FREE VERSION
-Since the gluten free flours used are actually whole grain, those two recipes are one and the same. However, you can replace the oat and brown rice flours with 240 g. (2 cups plus 2 Tbsp.) whole wheat flour if desired. If milling at home, I recommend a soft white wheat. Confectioners’ sugar can also be replaced with 172 g. (1 cup) Sucanat with honey pulsed in a blender until powdered.
-Replace all purpose flour with 128 g. (1 cup) brown rice flour and 100 g. (1 cup) oat flour.
-Follow recipe above. Gluten free recipe works best when dough is allowed to chill at least 6 hours.
-Texture will be even more crumbly than normal shortbread due to the lack of gluten.