I'm always skeptical when a recipe labels itself the "best." It sets a really high standard that I just don't think most recipes are able to live up to. So, when I was browsing recipes the other day and came across this one for the "best" shortbread from Cook's Illustrated I didn't think much of it - another "best" recipe, great... However, the more I read, the more I became hopeful and since the recipe was easy, I decided to give it a shot.
I have to tip my cap to Cook's Illustrated on this one. These shortbread cookies are ridiculously good! They are everything the perfect shortbread should be: buttery, crumbly, slightly crisp - in short, amazing. The cookies incorporate oat flour and cornstarch to achieve the perfect texture and utilize the collar of a springform pan to prevent spreading during baking. They keep well for 7 days, which makes them a perfect treat to share with friends and family during the holidays. I will definitely make them again, though this time I might try one of the variations suggested - ginger shortbread, toasted oat shortbread or chocolate-dipped pistachio shortbread - I'm sure they're all equally as good!
from Cook's Illustrated, November 2009
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
2/3 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
14 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/8-inch thick slices
Preheat oven to 450 F. Place the collar of a 9-inch springform pan upside down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. (The groove of the collar should be at the top.)
Pulse the oats in a mini prep or food processor until reduced to fine powder, about ten 5-second pulses. In bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix ground oats, all-purpose flour, cornstarch, sugar, and salt on low speed until combined, about 5 seconds. Add the butter to the mixer and continue to mix on low speed until dough just forms and pulls away from sides of bowl, 5 to 10 minutes.
Press the dough into the springform collar in an even 1/2-inch-thick layer, smoothing top of dough with back of spoon. Using a 2-inch biscuit cutter, cut a hole in the center of the dough. Place the round alongside springform collar on baking sheet and place the biscuit cutter back into the hole in the center of the dough. Open the springform collar all the way, but leave it in place around the dough.
Bake the shortbread 5 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 250 F. Continue to bake the shortbread until the edges turn pale golden, 10 to 15 minutes longer. Remove baking sheet from oven and turn off oven. Remove the biscuit cutter and springform pan collar; use a chef’s knife to score surface of shortbread into 16 even wedges, cutting halfway through shortbread. Using a wooden skewer, poke 8 to 10 holes in each wedge. Return the shortbread to the oven and prop door open with handle of wooden spoon. Allow the shortbread to dry in turned-off oven until pale golden in center, about 1 hour.
Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and cool the shortbread to room temperature, at least 2 hours. Cut shortbread at scored marks to separate.