it's been so long since i've made shortbread that i've forgotten how to make it by hand. can you refresh my memory, please ... anybody?

i've been a baker since c. 1970, and i prefer hand-mixing to using kitchen appliances. please don't forget about me. btw, i'm NOT a Luddite; i just like to mix doughs and batters with hands, pastry cutter (or forks), or a trusty wooden spoon.

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Bien Cuit Shortbread
Recipe question for: Bien Cuit Shortbread

19 Comments

boulangere May 28, 2019
Reading you loud and clear. Lately I've been mixing all my bread doughs by hand, and am a little surprised by how happy I am with the results. That said, I mixed and kneaded doughs by hand for years and years before my sister gifted me my first mixer. It is quite a pleasure to fire up the way-back machine.
 
Hollis R. May 28, 2019
indeed you are, boulangere! i'm very glad to meet a like mind :)
 
boulangere May 29, 2019
Today and tomorrow I am testing a hand-built version of an Italian bread. Once I've got my note in order, would you be interested in testing it? If so, please DM me your email address so I can send it on to you.
 
Hollis R. May 29, 2019
not right now, boulangere. i'm not making breads these days, not yet. plus, i had a knife accident this morning and nearly sliced off the top of one finger -- it's now useless to me until the wound heals, which won't be for some time, as it's a long and deep cut.

please keep me in mind, though. i'd really appreciate it!
 
boulangere May 29, 2019
Yikes! I hope your finger heals without incident. I've sliced off the right corner of my left index finger so many times that it doesn't grow back anymore, and does not have much feeling either.
 
Smaug May 29, 2019
Well that sucks considerably- good luck with it.
 
Hollis R. May 30, 2019
thanks to you, i found Shadi Hasanzadenemati's Persian Zucchini Stew recipe, then others that i love. i'll be following you, boulangere.
 
Wendy May 28, 2019
Hollis,
I have been making shortbreads since 1975 and I do them by hand, mixer and processor. When mixing by hand I always use a pastry cutter so my hands do not warm the butter. I also throw in at least a handful (1/4 cup) of rice flour in any shortbread recipe as this improves the crumb greatly. You can substitute as much as a third of the all purpose for rice flour in any shortbread recipe. Handle or knead dough as little as possible and always chill pan or cookies before baking!
 
Hollis R. May 28, 2019
thanks, Wendy -- all-around wonderful advice. i'm happy to say that i have rice flour on-hand (haha). i use forks rather than an actual pastry cutter, and amen to the chilling. i do it when whipping cream, too.
 
Nancy May 28, 2019
Wendy - agree with using a tool to keep butter from heat transfer, and chilling in fridge. Nancy
 
Smaug May 28, 2019
Don't think warming the butter is so much of an issue here, as you want it fully integrated with the flour- of course you don't want to actually melt it, but the recipe even calls for resting it at room temperature after cutting it- I don't think that hand rubbing it would cause a problem for someone with a good pastry hand.
 
Smaug May 28, 2019
For a short bread, or any short pastry, the emphasis is on coating the flour thoroughly with fat (shortening), thus preventing long strands of gluten from forming, to achieve the desired crumbly texture- to do it by hand I would rub the butter in as thoroughly as patience and old hand joints would allow.
 
Hollis R. May 28, 2019
thanks, o magnificent dragon! my patience is infinite, my hands nimble, quick, and strong (i'm a serious typist). i look forward to the challenge.

btw, you wouldn't happen to know where that Arkenstone is, would you? (it's not in my pocketses!)
 
Smaug May 28, 2019
Consider yourself fortunate- I am a serious guitarist, apparently of your generation, and my hands still work for that (which amazes me everytime I pick it up), but rubbing in butter tends to make them cramp. The original Arkenstone may be lost, but David Arkenstone is still churning out cds, doubtless available on Amazon.
 
Hollis R. May 28, 2019
i thought so, Smaug. your moniker totally gave you away, Mallorn! my first keyboard was an upright piano, for years. then clarinet, then flute, and a few forays into alto sax, French horn, and piccolo (best marching bad instrument EVER). i loved sucking the clarinet reed, but my favorite was flute. i had a Gemeinhardt open-hole low-B-key beauty that i adored; it was stolen my freshman year at college in '72, but c'est la vie. i'm pretty sanguine about material things. and it worked out well, monetarily, even though i no longer had a flute. i was never a serious musician; it was just fun to practice scales and triple-tonguing -- stuff like that. i'm an Aspie with OCD, and my taste in music runs from Gregorian chants to classical to Nirvana. no country, ffs, and very little jazz -- Brubeck's Take Five is awesome, and i love Diana Krall and Nina Simone's "Mississippi Goddamn!" (thanks to Cindy Hyde-Smith for that Nina Simone song.) Paul Simon is the fucking genius that John Lennon thought he was (not that he wasn't, but ...). and i'm nuts about musicals -- specifically Fiddler on the Roof and Hamilton.

and, yes, i've always considered myself fortunate, starting with my choice in parents.
 
Smaug May 28, 2019
Actually, last read those books sometime before you took up baking, no idea why that popped into my head when they asked me for a screen name. No idea why anything pops into my head, but it does make life interesting some times. Really, no country and no jazz? Maybe try John Scofield's "Country for Old Men"- can't imagine a life without Pistol Annie's, though- what would I listen to when I cook?
 
Hollis R. May 29, 2019
we're on different sides of the spectrum, then. i almost always remember what i was thinking at certain crucial times, and i always am able to trace my thought practice back to its inception. all the way back to Brooklyn c. 1955-1956, when i was anywhere from 10-16 months old, sitting on the living room rug with Stephen from next door (Mimi's Stephen, we called him), playing with random toys and watching kiddie TV. i had the epiphany that would become my first Memorable Moment -- i remember looking down at my feet, so near to me i could almost touch my toes without effort. then i looked over to my right and in front a few feet, where a large wingchair sat, looking enormous. i remember thinking how huge it was, and how glad i was to be so small. and then i laughed, pleased at my mental rationalization.

then, on Long Island when i was ~5, i had a sudden epiphany, while playing apathetically with a doll, that i didn't HAVE to be a parent, i didn't HAVE to have children. it hit me like a bolt from the blue. my heart still goes pitty-pat when i remember my realization -- of 60 years ago! and i listened to me, too!
 
Nancy May 28, 2019
Cream sugar & butter until light and fluffy, mix in flour. knead about 5 min. Roll out dough and shape like toast fingers (about 3x1 inch), put on cookie sheet, bake. Or pat into a round pan (pie plate, 8 or 9" baking pan), mark in wedges, bake, then cut or break apart after cooled.
Sources and tips:
https://www.tasteofhome.com/article/how-to-make-the-best-shortbread/
 
Hollis R. May 28, 2019
thanks, Nancy. you're a real help!
 
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