This time of year, shortbread cookies at Star Provisions come dressed for the season—as snowflakes, Christmas trees, and whatever else pastry chef Zibaa Sammander might dream up for this versatile, durable dough. It can be rolled thick or thin. It can be delicate and nearly white (baked slowly) or crisp-edged and golden (in a hotter oven). A tip: Instead of dusting the surface with flour to prevent sticking, roll the dough between sheets of parchment, then chill it for easy cutting.
1 For about three dozen 2½–inch cookies, measure 4 cups bleached all-purpose flour, 1 cup granulated sugar, and 1½ teaspoons kosher salt. Cube 4 sticks of high-quality unsalted butter and bring to room temperature.
2 Place sugar and salt, then butter, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, then run at low speed until blended. Raise speed to medium and mix for about 5 more minutes so that it’s very light and creamy.
3 Reduce speed to low and add flour slowly, one-third at a time. Mix until ingredients are just combined.
4 Place half the dough in the center of a pan-sized piece of parchment paper, then top with another piece of parchment. Use a rolling pin to flatten dough to ¼-inch thick; transfer to the baking sheet. (May be wrapped in plastic and frozen at this point.) Repeat with remaining dough.
5 Cut out shapes and place cookies on another baking sheet lined with parchment, spacing them about an inch apart. Wrap any unused dough tightly in plastic and place in freezer.
6 For pale cookies, preheat the oven to 225˚F then bake for 65 to 75 minutes. For a golden cookie, preheat the oven to 350˚F and bake for 10 to 12 minutes (add 5 to 10 more minutes if cookies are frozen).
7 Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. Decorate as desired.
To ice the cookies:
1 Mix together 3 cups confectioners sugar, ¼ cup milk, and paste or liquid food coloring a tiny dot at a time; transfer to a pastry bag or squirt bottle with a fine tip.
2 Outline the cooled cookie with icing, let dry slightly, then “flood” the center with more icing (thin with a teaspoon more of milk if needed), using a clean toothpick or tip of bottle to spread the icing to the border.
3 Let cookies dry for at least several hours or overnight before storing in a sealed container at room temperature.
(Tip: Baking pros like Sammander use more stable royal icing made with pasteurized egg whites or meringue powder for decorating; tutorials are widely available online. She likes to cover the cookies with white icing first, let it dry, then mix gel and liquid food coloring together and apply with a paintbrush to the cookies—like mini-canvases—to achieve a watercolor affect. For a wide selection of supplies, she recommends paying a visit to Cake Art in Tucker.)
Shake it up: 2 fun variations on the recipe
1 Substitute an equal amount of brown sugar for the white.
2 Roll the dough ½ inch thick.
3 Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, until it just begins to firm up.
4 Remove from the oven, slice into rectangles with a sharp knife, and return to the oven for 8-10 minutes until baked through.
5 Let cool until slightly warm, then toss with cinnamon sugar.
(These sometimes appear on cheese boards at Bacchanalia)
1 Substitute ½ cup cornmeal for equal amount of flour. Add 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary to the dough.
2 Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes.
3 Top with your favorite coarse salt.
About pastry chef Zibaa Sammander
Sammander’s degree might be in computer science, but she’s spent her career in the kitchen, with stints at Bacchanalia, Jöel, the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, the Peninsula Chicago, and other restaurants. She joined Star Provisions six years ago.
This article originally appeared in our December 2016 issue.