The secrets to tender, buttery, crunchy shortbread are letting the dough rest in the pan for at least two hours, or overnight, before baking and adding a second baking, to toast the cookies ever-so-slightly for extra flavor and crunch. Shortbread can keep for weeks in a sealed container.
- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and still warm
- 5 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or the scrapings from half a vanilla bean
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- Turbinado, Demerara or granulated sugar for sprinkling
- A baking pan with a removable bottom, such as a 9 1/2 inch round or a 4 by 14-inch rectangular fluted tart pan, or a one-piece 8-inch square pan
- If using a pan with a removable bottom, grease the pan; if using the one-piece 8-inch pan, line it with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
- In a medium bowl, combine the melted butter with the sugar, vanilla of your choice, and salt. Add the flour and mix just until incorporated. Pat and spread the dough evenly in the pan. Let rest for at least 2 hours, or overnight (no need to refrigerate).
- Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
- Bake the shortbread for 45 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the oven, leaving the oven on. Lightly sprinkle the surface of the shortbread with sugar. Let the shortbread cool for 10 minutes.
- Remove the shortbread from the pan, being careful to avoid breaking it. Use a thin sharp knife to cut it into oblong “fingers”, wedges, or squares. Place the pieces slightly apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet and put in the oven for 15 minutes.
- Cool on a rack.