Let me introduce you to my favorite cookie from my favorite cookbook, and the special nickname Lucy has given them.
Last year, I was looking for a good cookie to make in multiple batches to give as gifts, and this is the winner. Some day (soon!), I’ll tell you more about my favorite cookbook, In the Sweet Kitchen, by Regan Daley, but for now, let me share this amazing recipe with you. The author describes this as “perhaps the most decadent cookie I have ever had,” and she is right. Buttery, a little chewy, quite crunchy, with toffee and brown sugar flavors melting together in delirious richness. They keep very well in airtight containers, and they are very easy to make in quantity — but even so, I assure you they won’t last long! Jon’s colleagues at North Park seem pretty willing to polish off a batch whenever we need a little help.
I would totally bake a batch of these for Jesus himself, and I’m pretty sure he would love them. Maybe that’s why Lucy has dubbed them “Great News Cookies” — great news that Jesus was born, and great news whenever we bake these cookies in celebration!
I’m also working up a variation in chocolate, which I’ll hopefully have ready for sharing later this week — so stay tuned!
Butter-Toffee Crunch Shortbread
(adapted from In the Sweet Kitchen, by Regan Daley)
Let me start off with a few notes on some slightly unusual ingredients.
- Superfine sugar is just what it sounds like: very finely ground sugar (but not powdered sugar). I have seen superfine sugar in the “mixed drinks” section at liquor stores, and possibly in the baking aisles of some grocery stores. You can also use “fruit sugar” (which you can find at health food stores). I usually just take some regular granulated sugar and whiz it in my mini food processor for twenty seconds. (I just spun up a giant batch this week to handle all of my Christmas shortbread baking needs.) You could probably get the same effect if you go at it with a mortar and pestle, especially with this small amount. Or just go ahead and try regular sugar — how bad can it be? [A note from December 2, 2014: I have been making these with regular sugar this season and they are still fabulous. And much simpler.]
- Rice flour can be found pretty easily (at least in Chicago) in the organic/health food aisle in grocery stores. I’ve been using Bob’s Red Mill White Rice Flour in my recipes these days. You can also use cornstarch in a pinch, but it won’t lend quite the same crunchy texture to the recipe.
- Toffee bits can often be found in the baking aisle of grocery stores. You’re looking for those Heath or Skor baking bits. Frankly, I find them to be a little pricey, especially with the multiple batches I make, so I buy bags of those mini Heath bars instead. There’s a little bit of unwrapping involved, but kids can help with that (if they can demonstrate some self-restraint with the goods!). Fifteen little Heath bars, chopped up, yields ¾ cup.
¾ lb butter (3 sticks), room temperature
6 tablespoons superfine sugar
6 tablespoons brown sugar
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup rice flour
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup chopped toffee bits
¾ cup butterscotch morsels
Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter a 9”×13” pan, then line it with parchment paper, leaving a 1” overhang on the two long sides. Set aside.
Cream butter together with the sugars. In a separate bowl, combine flours and salt. Slowly add flour mixture to butter until just combined. (This will give your stand mixer a workout. If you’re doing it by hand, Regan Daley recommends mixing in the last bit of flour with your hands.) Add in the toffee bits and butterscotch chips; mix until distributed throughout.
Press dough into the prepared pan using your fingers and the heel of your hand — don’t stress about getting it all perfectly even, just do your best. Smooth it with the back of a spoon, then prick it all over with a fork. Bake for 45 minutes, then take it out and prick it all over again. Return to the oven for 15 minutes, then remove.
This shortbread cools into a very firm cookie, so you’ll need to cut it while it is still warm. Let shortbread cool for 7 or 8 minutes after removing it from the oven. Then lift it up by the parchment paper and transfer to a cutting board (no need to remove parchment). Using a chef’s knife, make two long slices lengthwise, dividing it into three long rectangles. Then slice across the rectangles into ¾” to 1” fingers (see photo). Regan recommends wiping off the blade between slices so as to cut down on any tearing that might occur when sticky bits grab onto the blade, but I usually skip that step with no problem.
Leave the shortbread to cool, then package in an airtight container. These cookies also freeze very well, which sometimes helps reduce the pre-breakfast nibbling temptation.
Yields about 36 cookies.