Shortbread, meet snickerdoodle. Snickerdoodle, meet shortbread. In this mashup cookie, you get the best of both worlds: a buttery, crumbly, tender shortbread, spiced with cinnamon, and coated in a sparkly cinnamon-sugar crust. To get said crust, all you have to do is grease and sugar the pan (just like grease and flour, but better). I love how the cinnamon toasts in the oven, becoming a bigger-personality version of itself. A little bit of vanilla underscores the snickerdoodle vibe. A couple notes about the execution: The dough comes together with a few clicks of the food processor (easy-peasy!), but do keep an eye on it. When it’s ready, the dough should hold together but still be quite crumbly. When you press it into the pan, that will take care of the rest. And don’t forget to cut the shortbread into bars right after you take it out of the oven. This ensures neat, even squares (if you cut it when it’s cold, its crumbly tenderness will work against you). I love this with tea or coffee, especially as an afternoon snack. —Emma Laperruque
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Unsalted butter, at room temperature, for greasing the pan
Heat the oven to 325°F. Butter an 8x8-inch baking pan. In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and cinnamon for the sugar crust. Dump the cinnamon-sugar into the buttered baking dish and tap it around, so the inside of the pan is completely coated. Pour the remaining cinnamon-sugar back into the small bowl.
Add the flour, sugar, salt, and cinnamon to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a couple times to combine. Chop the butter into big pieces and add them on top of the dry ingredients, along with the vanilla extract. Pulse in short bursts until an extremely crumbly dough forms. Overmixing will hurt the tender, crumbly texture, so check frequently. If you can squeeze some of the bits and they hold together, it’s ready.
Dump the shortbread mixture into the prepared pan. Use the palms of your hands or the bottom of a measuring cup to press down the mixture until it’s totally smooth. Sprinkle the remaining cinnamon-sugar evenly on top. Use a fork to prick the dough all over.
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the top is deeply golden-brown and dry to the touch. As soon as it comes out of the oven, use a knife to cut it into 16 squares. Let the shortbread completely cool before serving.
Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.