High Country Baking: Patriotic shortbread, but make it amazing by using the best ingredients
High Country Baking
Patriotism in a pan—that’s what this shortbread is, so it’s perfect for the Fourth of July. A large part of its appeal is due to its simplicity. A tender, buttery crust cradles a layer of sweet raspberry preserves, showered with stars made from the same delicate dough.
With so few ingredients, use good ones: fresh unsalted butter, real vanilla, and the best jam you can find; they account for all of the taste. To get the lovely, light texture, handle the dough gently and don’t overwork it.
If you’re transporting the shortbread, leave it in the pan, covered with plastic wrap or foil, until you reach your destination. You can make the shortbread a day before serving. Store it covered at cool room temperature.
Stars and Stripes Shortbread
Make in a 9×13 inch shiny metal baking pan with low sides
2 cups bleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
¾ cup superfine granulated sugar, preferably Baker’s, plus additional for sprinkling on cookies
1 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons unsalted butter (two sticks)
1 generous teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 (approximately) cups seedless raspberry jam or preserves
1 egg yolk mixed with a teaspoon of water
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees, with a rack in the center position. Line the baking pan with non-stick or regular foil, extending it several inches over the short sides of the pan to use as handles when removing the baked shortbread. Generously grease the regular foil (if using) with a baking spray that contains flour.
2. To make in a food processor: Combine the flour, cornstarch, granulated sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the ingredients are fully combined. Cut the butter into sixteen pieces and add them, along with the vanilla, to the bowl. Process until the dough is uniformly moistened and forms big curds. There should be no dry ingredients visible at the bottom of the bowl. Stop before the dough forms a smooth dough or a ball.
To make with a mixer: Let the butter come to room temperature and cream it, with the sugar, salt, and vanilla until light. Add the flour and cornstarch and beat until combined.
3. Turn the dough out onto a sheet of waxed paper and gently press it together into a rough disc. Cut it into two pieces, one slightly larger (about three-fifths of the dough) than the other. Pat the smaller piece into a disc, wrap it in the waxed paper, and refrigerate it until it is firm enough to roll. Break the remaining dough into pieces and scatter them all over the bottom of the prepared pan. Smooth and press them into the pan (doing this through a piece of plastic wrap speeds up the process) until they form a level crust. If the dough has softened, place it in the refrigerator to firm up.
4. Spoon the raspberry preserves into a bowl and stir until they’re a spreadable consistency. If necessary, warm them briefly in the microwave: they shouldn’t get hot, only warm enough to spread. Spread them evenly over the crust. Set this aside. Remove the disc of dough from the refrigerator, place it between two sheets of waxed paper, and roll to a uniform thickness of about one-eighth of an inch. Using star cookie cutters – I use three different sizes – cut out as many stars as possible. If the dough gets soft, slip it on a baking sheet and freeze it for several minutes until it’s easy to work with. Randomly place the stars on the raspberry jam. Re-roll the dough and repeat. Feel free to get creative.
5. Carefully glaze the stars with the egg yolk-water mixture and top each with a sprinkle of granulated sugar. Bake until the stars turn golden and the jam bubbles. Start checking after the shortbread has been in the oven for about 30 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool completely. Use the foil handles to lift the shortbread from the pan. Serve whole and invite diners to cut off pieces to nibble, or pre-cut it into even squares before serving.
Dr. Vera Dawson is a high-elevation baking instructor and author of three high-altitude cookbooks (available at The Bookworm in Edwards, Next Page Bookstore in Frisco, and Breck Books in Breckenridge). She became a full-time Frisco resident in 1991 and has been developing and adjusting recipes so that they work at our altitude ever since. Contact her at email@example.com.