Shortbread is a taken-for-granted kind of cookie. It's usually ho-hum, buttery, sweet, nothing too special. It's versatile. You can add spices, citrus zest, vanilla bean, cocoa nibs. Some people really enjoy buttery, flaky cookies and my mother is one of them, so this is what she got for Mother's day. For the record, it shipped well and did not break. Always useful information.
This particular shortbread is flaky, tall, and soft. (There are other chewy shortbreads that are delicious too and this is not one of them). It's adapted from the Tartine cookbook. I've tried it out a couple of times and it's critical to do it by hand, with the butter at a supersoft consistency. As if you've left it out on a humid July day while you went to the corner store for some eggs, ran into your neighbor, chatted for fifteen minutes, and came back home to find squeezable, malleable butter.
If you'd rather make this shortbread, orange, vanilla, (orange-vanilla), fennel, baharat, or anything else, you go right ahead. How do you do this? Add some flavoring (seeds from 1 van. bean, 1 t spices, etc), and then taste the dough. Start small...for obvious reasons.
(makes one 9-inch round, to be cut into 8-10 wedges)
soft butter: 9 oz.
salt: 1/2 tsp. + pinch (reserved)
lemon zest: 1-2 large lemons*
rice flour: 1/2 c. + 2T**
granulated sugar: 1/3 c. + more for topping
Paddle softened butter with a spatula by hand until creamy. Work in sugar and lemon zest. Add rice flour and mix until dough comes together. Pat dough into baking tin and smooth to level grade. Top dough with granulated sugar and reserved pinch of salt. Bake in 325 degree oven 30-40 minutes. Should be just slightly golden but cooked through in center. Let cool before cutting.
*I used Eureka lemons.
**Cornstach can be substituted for rice flour.