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Whole wheat shortbread

I have neglected to post an entry on cookies for nearly two years. I finally got around to making shortbread, so I no longer have an excuse.


This recipe is highly influenced by a book sent over by my mother-in-law, Best-kept Secrets of the Women’s Institute: Cakes & Biscuits, by Jill Brand. I made some semi-sweeping changes: Used whole wheat pastry flour (yields a nutty flavor, yet not heavy), exchanged rice flour for corn starch (avoiding the raw, grittiness from corn starch), and vanilla sugar for some of the sugar.

Two lessons I learned: First, place a sling made of parchment paper in the pan, to ease lifting shortbread from the pan. Second, wait about 10 to 20 minutes before attempting to remove the shortbread from the pan. By ignoring these steps, the shortbread suffered from horizontal fissures. The taste or texture weren’t affected, of course, but the end result looked kind of wonky.

Next time I might add lemon or orange zest. Although as it is, it’s quite delectable, especially with tea or coffee. Update (15 Sept 2009): The zest and juice from 2 medium-smallish Bearss limes worked out quite tastily.


  • 4 1/2 ounces whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 ounces rice flour; flour based on medium or long grain rice is fine, but don’t use sticky (sweet, glutinous) rice flour.
  • 1 1/2 ounces powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla sugar
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • extra sugar for sprinkling


  1. Preheat oven to 300ºF degrees (unless you do step 5). Grease a small pan (e.g., 8 inch round, or 9 inch by 6 inch rectangular), then line it with parchment paper with some excess paper hanging out — to grab in two places afterwards to lift out the shortbread more easily.
  2. Sift both flours, both sugars and salt into a food processor bowl fitted with the plastic blade. Pulse for a second or two a couple of times to mix the dry ingredients.
  3. Add the butter, and pulse (10 to 20 second increments) a few times until a crumbly but slightly moist mass forms.
  4. Pour into the prepared pan, and pat flat with your fingers or the back of a large spoon.
  5. (Optional) Allow to sit for 2 or more hours. This hint comes from Smitten Kitchen, where the resting period helps relax the dough so the shortbread ends up tender. If you do this, start preheating the oven near the end of the resting period.
  6. Bake in the oven for 45 to 55 minutes; less for thinner cookies, more for thicker ones. When done the edges will have developed the barest hint of brown.
  7. Allow to cool for 10 to 20 minutes. Lift shortbread by its parchment paper sling and place on a board; slice into 1ish inch pieces.
  8. Sprinkle with sugar, then place on rack to cool and firm up. If you’ve managed not to inhale them all, pack them away in a container after an hour or two of cooling.

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