Cookies made according to this basic shortbread recipe resemble the famous "Danish butter cookies", but taste better than most of the store-bought varieties.
100 g butter
100 g flour
30 - 50 g potato flour or cornstarch
30 - 50 g icing sugar
2 tsp vanilla sugar
Cut the butter in small cubes and let it become very soft at room temperature. Sieve together the dry ingredients.
Using a wooden spoon or a balloon whisk, beat the soft butter in a bowl until fluffy. Mixing with your hand, start adding the dry ingredients, adding enough only to form a soft dough.
Knead lightly until the mixture forms a soft ball. If the dough remains very sticky, add slightly more of the flour-sugar mixture.
Use a pastry bag to pipe the dough into different cookie shapes. If you have a cookie press, you can use it to form the dough into pressed cookies, like shown in the picture below.
Cookie shapes formed using a cookie press.
If you are forming the cookies by hand, first let the dough harden by placing it in refrigerator, wrapped in plastic.
Roll pieces of the dough into long strands and cut them in smaller pieces. Flatten the pieces with the prongs of a fork dipped in cold water, forming fluted cookies.
Place the cookies on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.
The dough may also be spread and pressed flat into a rectangular, small and flat cake pan, see the picture on right. Prick the dough with a fork before baking.
Bake the individual cookies at 190 - 200 °C for about 7 - 15 minutes, or until they start to turn slightly golden around the edges. If using a cake pan, bake the dough for a little longer, about 20 - 25 minutes, at 160 °C.
Let the cookies cool for about 10 minutes before lifting them carefully with a palette knife on a wire rack.
Cut the dough baked in the pan into bars while it is still warm.
Picture on right: butter cookie bars.
Let the cookies cool completely before serving or placing them in a cookie jar.
Recipe source: adapted from "Vanilla shortbread" by Nigella Lawson/Observer Food Monthly, December/2002.