Shortbread has a special place in my heart – and my kitchen. Next to chocolate chip, these are the cookies my whole family want in on all the time (although I personally prefer buttery shortbread over CCC).
How can three simple ingredients – flour, sugar, and butter – create such sweet alchemy? Since its first appearance in 12th century Scotland, shortbread has seen many versions and variations that depart from the original baked medieval biscuit. In fact, it was not until the time of Mary, Queen of Scots in the 16th century that the shortbread we know today – the buttery, crumbly cookie with crimped or fluted edges – was refined.
There are versions with coriander and caraway seeds; with orange peel and almonds; and with Celtic sea salt. Some have mutated to include some rice flour or corn starch, and some have wandered into powdered sugar territory. The French call them sablés and make them with a higher butter-to-flour ratio, similarly adding from lemon to lavender to the dough. Meanwhile, other parts of the world call them Danish biscuits or butter cookies, encompassing those cookies that do not even contain butter as the shortening. Whatever version you grew up knowing and eating, there’s always one overarching truth: butter is best, so the better the quality of butter, the better-tasting cookie.
While my gluten-free shortbread is a variant of the traditional Scottish one, I am darn proud that they are almost identical in taste. I used mostly almond flour for the dough, so for those who have tree nut allergies, feel free to replace with regular all-purpose flour and you have a traditional version in your hand.
My research has taken me to this statistic: about 1 to 2 percent of the American population is allergic to tree nuts (almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts, Brazil nuts). But this medical article also notes that about 9% of that affected population will outgrow their allergies, so it is recommended to get tested regularly.
Here’s a little interesting note, though… Almonds, like most other nuts, contain high levels of phytic acid, which is as an anti-nutrient – a substance that binds to minerals, making it hard for humans to absorb and digest them in a beneficial way. Although phytic acid is mostly found in the bran of the grain or skin of the nut, and almond flour is blanched anyway (which means the skin is removed before finely grinding), there’s less of the culprit in there. But always proceed with caution when baking with almond flour; they key is – and still will be – always in moderation. Don’t bake every day, but instead reserve it for special occasions. Like the weekend. Then, let your treats take you through at least the first half of the week. Hard as it is, resist the temptation to finish your sweets in one sitting! That said, here is the recipe for Gluten-free Chocolate-Dipped Shortbread Cookies.
As a side note, I want to recommend using dark chocolate (preferably 65% to 70% cocoa) for the cookie dip. Dark chocolate has some notable benefits, as reported in this medical article. However, limit yourself to 85 grams (3 oz) a day, the amount shown to be most helpful. My recipe calls for 100 grams of melted dark chocolate, but you won’t be using up all 100 grams. Anyway, you will not be eating all the cookies in one sitting, right?
Please enjoy sensibly.
- ~~ For the shortbread ~~
- 150 grams (1-1/3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, softened to room temperature
- 75 grams (1/3 cup) granulated sugar or caster sugar
- 150 grams (about 1-1/2 cup) almond flour
- 75 grams (2/3 cup) rice flour
- ~~ For the dipping chocolate ~~
- 100 grams chocolate (preferably 65% to 70%)
- Preheat the oven to 325 F (170 C).
- Put the softened butter and sugar into a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, and gradually work it into a soft paste. You can also do this by hand.
- Sift the almond flour and rice flour into the creamed butter and sugar mixture.
- Using a fork or spatula, fold the ingredients lightly until a crumbly, soft dough forms.
- Using your hands, bring the mix to a soft, crack free dough by kneading it a few times. At this point, you can keep the dough in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, if you wish - or you can proceed to the next step. Remove from the refrigerator 15-20 minutes before rolling out.
- Place the dough between two large sheets of parchment paper, and sprinkle lightly with rice flour.
- With a rolling pin, roll out the dough to 5mm-thick.
- Lightly flour a 6- to 7-cm biscuit cutter (I used a fluted one here, but you can choose your own shape).
- Remove the top paper and start cutting out your cookies. Transfer them to a cookie sheet with a lightly-floured cookie spatula.
- Prick the cookies with a fork.
- Bake the shortbread until very lightly coloured, 20 to 25 minutes. Ideally, shortbread should not even brown the slightest.
- Transfer to a rack to cool completely. Shortbread will keep for up to 1 month in an airtight container or tin.
- To make the chocolate for dipping, melt 100 grams of chocolate in a bowl over a pan of gently simmering water (double boiler method).
- Dip one half of each shortbread into the warm chocolate to partially coat.
- Place on parchment paper to cool.