I love shortbread cookies. It’s amazing how much more I love them now that I can make them with freshly milled flour. In the previous blog post, I mention how the flavors of fresh, whole grain flour really shine when there aren’t a lot of competing flavors and ingredients in the mix. This really rings true in the recipe below. These cookies were the first to be baked and shared from flour I had milled myself and marked a turning point in my confidence as an aspiring food entrepreneur.
Over two years ago now, in an attempt to educate myself on the basic principles of milling, my husband and I made the trek up to Chico, CA and picked up a mill created by Roger and Larry Jansen with 12-inch stones made of balfour pink granite. It is painted a rich red with black accents and looks super fab when pulled out onto the driveway for a little action. I promptly began milling whatever grain I could get my hands on and test baking.
To say that there were immediate and consistent “aha” moments would be an understatement. I was so surprised by how obvious the added richness and complexity was that I immediately began doubting my own taste buds. Maybe I was just drinking my own Kool-Aid, you know? I needed unbiased confirmation. So, many flour samples went out to many hands, none of which belonged to professional bakers.
Always the first question to be asked was “What should I bake?”. My answer now is the same as it was then: “Go make some shortbread.” And so a version of the recipe below has been given out to many a home baker at dinners, Christmas cookie parties, and business brain storming sessions. It never fails to impress. Something magical happens when you replace the normal refined flour with fresh whole grains. The butter tastes more butter-y, the hint of salt has a little more sparkle, and the whole cookie takes on a new level of toasty, nutty goodness.
I used a heart shaped cookie cutter in honor of posting this recipe for Valentine’s Day, but any 2 to 3-inch shape will do. Eat them plain for maximum flour power enjoyment, but do make the effort to dip them in chocolate at least once; then be prepared to witness simplicity at its finest.
Grist & Toll Shortbread Cookies
- 1 cup Sonora Whole Grain Flour, (4.5 oz)
- 1 cup Hard Red Whole Grain Flour, (4.5 oz), such as Triple IV
- ½ cup cornstarch, (2.5 oz)
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅓ cup superfine sugar, (2.75 oz)
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, (8 oz), at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla, or seeds of one fresh vanilla bean
- extra sugar, for sprinkling, optional
- melted chocolate, for dipping, optional
- fleur de sel, for sprinkling, optional
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
In a medium bowl, thoroughly whisk together both flours and cornstarch.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, sugar, salt and vanilla or vanilla bean seeds. You only need to mix long enough that the ingredients are incorporated and the mixture starts to look a little fluffy.
Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix on low speed just until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated. Be careful not to over mix.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and roll out to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out desired shapes and place on prepared baking sheets. Gather up dough scraps, gently press together (do not knead), and roll out again to cut out more cookies. A 2 1/2 inch cookie cutter should yield about 24 cookies. If desired, lightly sprinkle tops of cookies with additional sugar before baking.
Place baking sheets in oven and bake shortbread until nicely set and edges are golden brown, approximately 12-18 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool on baking sheets just for a couple of minutes. The shortbread is delicate and this will help you transfer them to cooling racks without breaking. Transfer to cooling racks and allow to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.
*We like to dip the corners of our shortbread cookies in chocolate and sprinkle with a little fleur de sel. Tempering the chocolate will help it set up and keep it from looking dull and cloudy. There are many online tutorials for tempering chocolate.