Irish Shortbread Cookie Disaster

I just got back from dinner with my cousin Gladys celebrating my birthday at Oishi, a Japanese restaurant in Boston’s South End. I was still feeling like making something, anything at all for practice. I know I am supposed to be working with eggs to further my skills, but I don’t think I can stomach another omelette, fritata, scrambled egg or anything of the sort for a while. My plans for making mayonnaise for my lunch sandwiches was thwarted by the power outage that I experienced and continue to experience as I can’t use deli meat for sandwiches anymore and need to get some more. Keeping up with the Irish theme I searched for something quick and simple and settled on Irish Shortbread cookies, what I hoped would be a great end to the evening as dessert.

The recipe for “Irish Shortbread Cookies” was simple requiring flour, sugar, salt and butter. How could this go wrong? I mixed my ingredients and rolled them. This dough was really sticky and stuck to my “non-stick” rolling pin.Β  The cookies were easy to cut with a pizza cutter, a trick I learned from Alton Brown on his show Good Eats and were put on a cookie sheet. The dough was pricked with a fork as the recipe requested and I set my timer.

Shortbread Cookies Before Baking
Shortbread Cookies Before Baking

After about 10 minutes I knew something was wrong. The cookies were just flattening out on my cookie sheet and some of the thinner ones began to brown. I took them out earlier than the recipe called for at 15 minutes, flat and missing the fork prick marks with the thinner ones close to burnt.

My Flat Shortbread Cookies
My Flat Shortbread Cookies

Unfortunately I don’t know what went wrong, yet this incident did remind me that recipes can’t be blindly followed. I wasn’t expecting them to rise, but instead harden up as moisture evaporated from the dough. I suspect that the heat was too high causing the butter to melt faster than the moisture evaporated. On the bright side, the non-burnt cookies do taste good although they are a bit on the oily side.

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  1. I had some confusion with the ingredients. I thought the cook on the Martha Stewart show said 1 pound butter…..then I looked at the recipe on the website, and it says 1 cup… that would be HALF a pound.

    Anyway, I saw your shortbread, and I had the exact same thing happen before. I don’t think the heat was too high. The show and recipe both said 300 degrees, so that is really not all that hot for shortbread cookies. I think what is happening is the butter is “breaking down” as it is getting too warm. The recipe says put butter out of the fridge for 15 minutes prior to creaming the butter and sugar. I know I had mine at room temperature way longer than that. I also think maybe we just beat it too long, also causing it to break down.

    I’m glad you sent pictures. Mine did the same thing!

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