Bigger Bolder Irish Shortbread For Trying Times

We all need a big, buttery cookie in these trying times.
We all need a big, buttery cookie in these trying times. Plus, you can play Jenga with it!

In a crisis, some people hoard toilet paper.

I bake.

And apparently, from the looks of social media, I’m not the only one. Peppering the updates of so many of my friends lately are photos and confessions of baking to ease the mind or merely distract from the news of late.

I readily admit that I sometimes fall victim to procrastibaking — ignoring writing deadlines only to bake a batch of cookies instead. Stress baking is merely its close cousin.

Psychologists have explained that those who hoard toilet paper or empty grocery shelves in a panic are only trying to exercise control in a world that now seems very much out of our hands. We can’t guarantee we won’t catch a deadly coronavirus. But darned if we can’t make sure our pantries and cupboards are filled to capacity.

And so, I bake. Because if I’m going down, I’m doing so fighting — and with a ready-steady supply of buttery sweet treats.

“Bigger Bolder Irish Shortbread” is ideal at times like this. It’s from the new cookbook, “Bigger Bolder Baking: A Fearless Approach to Baking Anytime, Anywhere” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019), of which I received a review copy.

It’s by Gemma Stafford, an Irish-born chef and creator of the YouTube baking show, “Bigger Bolder Baking,” who now makes her home in Los Angeles.

Included are more than 115 appealing recipes for everything from “Baked Cinnamon-Sugar Churros” and “Homemade Jelly Doughnuts” to “30-Minute Chocolate Roulade” and “Peanut Butter & Fudge Ice Cream Pie.”

“Bigger Bolder Irish Shortbread” is especially timely with St. Patrick’s Day around the corner. With manic shoppers emptying store shelves, it’s also a handy recipe because it uses only four ingredients — flour, sugar, butter and cornstarch — that you probably already have on hand.

Pre-cut and pricked with a fork -- before baking.
Pre-cut and pricked with a fork — before baking.

The recipe says to cream the sugar and butter in a bowl with a wooden spoon. I did it with an electric mixer instead, not only to give my arms a break but because I think it’s just really difficult to get the mixture as creamy with a spoon as you would with a mixer’s whirling paddle attachment.

Just press the dough into the pan. Then, use a knife to make cuts in it, before pricking it all over with the tines of a fork.

One of the easiest cookies you'll ever make.
One of the easiest cookies you’ll ever make.

I’d never made shortbread before that had so much cornstarch in it — a full cup. What it does is create a shortbread that truly melts in your mouth. The crunchy exterior gives way to a near-powdery textured interior that just dissolves in your mouth with blissful buttery goodness.

The shortbread is perfect alongside a cup of tea, coffee, hot cocoa — or a scoop of ice cream.

We may not be able to control world events right now. But we have the power to turn on the oven to bake the simplest of cookies that surely will bring a measure of sweet comfort.

A thick, melt-in-your-mouth, buttery cookie to sooth the soul with.
A thick, melt-in-your-mouth, buttery cookie to sooth the soul with.

Bigger Bolder Irish Shortbread

(Makes 16 cookies)

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup cornstarch

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan and line it with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with a wooden spoon until pale, light, and fluffy. Or alternatively, use an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.

Add the flour and cornstarch. Mix very lightly until you have a smooth dough.

Press the dough into the prepared pan. With a knife, cut the dough into 16 fingers measuring 1-by-4-inches (these marks will make it easier to cut your baked shortbread). Prick the dough all over with a fork.

Bake for about 50 minutes, until golden brown. Let the shortbread cool slightly in the pan, then, while it’s still warm, cut along the marks into 16 bars.

Store the shortbread in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Adapted from “Bigger Bolder Baking” by Gemma Stafford

More Comfort-Food Baked Goods: Apple Brownies

And: Brown-Butter Toffee Blondies

And: Buttermilk Coconut Blondies

And: See’s Original Chocolate Chip Cookies

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  • Hope you laid in a good supply of butter and flour and chocolate chips, etc. You are going to be stuck at home for several weeks:-(

  • Karen: You know me too well! My freezer is stocked with butter, and my pantry is full of flour, sugar and chocolate. A gal’s just gotta bake — especially in these crazy times. 😉

  • We’re baking too! And have all the supplies we need. 🙂 This looks great — haven’t made shortbread in ages, and this looks perfect. Thanks. (And stay safe!)

  • what about making this Gluten Free? Looks wonderful.

  • Hi Suzi: You could definitely try swapping out the all-purpose flour for a gluten-free flour blend or even almond flour. If you do, let me know how it comes out. Happy baking! 😉

  • that’s what i’m talking about! 🙂
    hope you’re staying safe and healthy!

  • Having a difficult time saving this to Pinterest!

  • Thank you soon much for sharing the shortbread recipe with everyone I used to work with a lady and she gave me the recipe I cherished it so much butter some of the recipes only used 1 stick butter and you used much more live the taste of butter thank you

  • Rita: You are very welcome. These shortbread really hit the spot. Hope you enjoy them!

  • Could I sub tapioca flour for the cornstarch? Thnx

  • Leigh: I have not tried that, but you might be able to do so. However, you might need to fiddle with the amount of tapioca flour. See this for reference:

  • Hi, I baked for 60 minutes and it still seems underdone, but I didn’t want to scorch the butter by going longer. It’s definitely melt-in-the-mouth. I think I’ll reduce the cornstarch next time. My next baking foray will be something with canned pumpkin. I’m jealously hoarding my last 2 packets of yeast. Who’d ever think yeast and toilet paper would be the scarcest commodities?

  • Ibby: It could be that your oven runs a little cooler maybe? The cookies should feel pretty firm when you take them out of the oven. And of course, they will firm up even more as they cool. I’m just like you — I have only 2 packets of yeast left, too, and am guarding them like precious jewels! I’m just glad I finally got my hands on some AP flour a couple weeks ago, too. Stay safe and well. And happy baking! 😉

  • Hi, so i don’t have any cornstarch at all. Any ideas what i should do instead?

  • Jay: You could probably just use more flour, though, the texture may be less melt-in-your-mouth. Or use a different shortbread recipe, such as this one:

  • Looking for recipe for coconut cookie

  • Hi Maria: Google is probably your best bet to search for exactly the kind of coconut cookie you are looking for.

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