Strawberry Shortbread

Strawberry Shortbread
Shortbread is a cookie that never wears out its welcome in my kitchen, probably because I love butter so much. A good shortbread recipe uses plenty of butter and allows that butter flavor to come through in the finished cookies. In addition to showcasing butter, shortbread is also an excellent canvas on which to play with other flavors because the cookies are so simple. In the past, I’ve made a wide variety of shortbread, from citrus-infused recipes to nutty ones. This Strawberry Shortbread lets berries take center stage in a recipe that is perfect for springtime entertaining.

The strawberry flavor in this recipe come from freeze dried strawberries. I regularly use freeze dried fruits as a way to bring flavor into baked goods without compromising the texture of the treat that I’m working with. This is particularly important when you’re baking cookies or cookie bars, as the moisture from fresh berries can have a negative impact on the finished cookie, whether you’re going for a crisp, chewy or cakey texture. In the instructions below I suggest “crushing” your freeze dried strawberries before use. For this recipe, your strawberries don’t need to be crushed down to a powder, but small pieces will end up with a better distribution in the finished shortbread.

The finished shortbread has a fantastic fresh strawberry flavor and a nice butteriness to it. I like them plain and paired with a cup of tea, but if you want to dress them up, you can drizzle them with white or dark chocolate. These keep very well when stored in an airtight container, so you can bake them a few days ahead of time.

Strawberry Shortbread
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup freeze dried strawberries, crushed

Preheat oven to 350F.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Blend in vanilla extract and salt. With the mixer on low speed, gradually blend in the flour until the mixture is sandy and no pieces of butter larger than a small pea remain. Mix in crushed, freeze-dried strawberries.
Pour sandy mixture into a 9-inch square pan and spread into an even layer. Use a flat-bottomed glass to press down the dough firmly, creating as smooth a surface as possible.
Score dough lightly with a sharp knife, marking 4 rows by 8 rows of shortbread pieces. Dock the dough with a fork, if desired.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, until shortbread is lightly browned all over.
While the shortbread is still hot and still in the pan, use a sharp knife or a bench scraper to cut shortbread all the way through along the lines you scored prior to baking. Allow shortbread to cool completely in the pan once it has been cut.
When cooled, shortbread pieces should break apart very easily. Store in an airtight container.

Makes 32 pieces.

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