High Country Baking: Celebrate powder days with snow day shortbreads
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons bleached all-purpose flour, spoon and level
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons superfine granulated sugar
Scant 1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened
3/4 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
Waking up to fresh powder on a day you can get out and enjoy it … Does it get any better than that? Oh, how we treasure snow days in the mountains and here’s a cookie made in their honor; a snowflake made of sweet, buttery shortbread.
I’m delighted with the snowflake cookie stamp I used to make these. It’s made of plastic and has two parts: an exterior, which makes the snowflake shape, and an interior that provides detail to the design. The interior is spring-loaded so it creates a very precise pattern when pressed into the cookie dough. It’s available for purchase on Amazon.
This is my favorite shortbread recipe for this type of cookie. It maintains the stamped design very well without forfeiting a tender texture and rich taste. For best results, use high-quality butter and pure vanilla extract and make sure your rolled dough is even and level, so all the cookies will be the same thickness and bake in the same amount of time.
What’s vanilla paste? It’s wonderful stuff. It can be used 1:1 for vanilla extract but it’s thicker and flecked with real vanilla beans so it gives a more pronounced vanilla flavor to whatever you use it in.
1: To make in a food processor: Combine the flour, cornstarch, powdered sugar, granulated sugar, and salt in the processor bowl fitted with the metal blade, and pulse a few times until blended. Cut the butter into 12 pieces and add them, with the vanilla extract. Pulse until a shaggy dough forms; stop before it forms a ball. Dump it out onto a sheet of waxed paper, knead gently and form into a disc.
To make with a mixer: Cut the butter into 12 pieces, add them to a mixing bowl along with the cornstarch, powdered sugar, granulated sugar, vanilla and salt. Beat, starting on low speed and moving to medium speed once the ingredients are blended. Continue beating until the mixture is light and fluffy, about three minutes. Stir in the flour by hand or at the mixer’s lowest speed, only until blended. Over-beating will result in a tough cookie. Form the dough into a disc.
2: Let the dough rest for about 15 minutes so it firms up a bit. Roll it between two sheets of waxed paper to a thickness of a quarter of an inch, and place it, still between the sheets of waxed paper, on a cookie sheet. Chill it until it’s quite firm (about 15 minutes in the freezer or 30 minutes in your fridge). While the dough chills, preheat your oven to 315 degrees, with a rack in the upper third of the oven.
3: Remove the chilled dough and carefully peel off the waxed paper. Dip your cookie stamp in flour or powdered sugar (this will prevent the dough from sticking to it) and shake it to remove any excess (too much will blur the design). Press it into the dough until the outside edge cuts all the way through and then firmly push the spring-loaded handle down to make the interior design. If the dough is sufficiently chilled, the dough will remain in the stamp when you lift it. Move the stamp to the prepared cookie sheet, press the handle again so the cookie drops out. Continue making snowflakes, spacing them about 1 and 1/4 inches apart on the cookie sheet. If they have softened significantly while cutting, chill them again until firm, but not hard, before baking. If they’re chilled before baking there’s less chance they’ll spread in the oven. Re-roll and chill the remaining dough and cut out more cookies
4: Bake until the cookies are set and light golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Take them out of the oven, cool them on the pan for 3 to 4 minutes, and transfer them to a rack to cool completely. Store, wrapped airtight, for five days at cool room temperature or freeze for six weeks.
Vera Dawson teaches high-altitude baking classes and is the author of two high-altitude cookbooks, “Cookies in the Clouds” and “Baking Above It All” (available at The Bookworm in Edwards and Next Page Bookstore in Frisco). Her recipes have been tested in her Summit County kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at email@example.com.
Whistle Pig Vail at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater and Vilar Center’s summer series in Beaver Creek bringing in some high-end talent.