I searched for a shortbread recipe like Walkers, which are the Scottish imported ones you see everywhere with the red tartan wrapper. They are thick and crumbly, more sandy than crunchy, and this recipe claimed to replicate Walkers. Although traditional shortbread is pressed into a round pan and then sliced into wedges, you can also shape it into a log and refrigerate it for slice-and-bake round cookies, or you can roll it out and cut it with cookie cutters. It holds its shape relatively well. I saw an article in Sunset Magazine that suggested using kitchen items with interesting shapes, such as a lemon zester, to emboss cookies. I've done this before with peanut butter cookies, which require pressing down, but not with a more delicate cookie like shortbread.
I used the lemon zester to make a starfish shape. I thought they were cute, but next time, I'll roll the cookies a little thicker and press a little harder for a more distinct impression.
On others, I just sprinkled demerara sugar. At some point, I will buy some white sanding sugar. On occasion, with a very light-colored cookie like this one, I think the white sugar would look nicer than light brown. It makes no difference on muffins or rugelach or anything golden brown.
These tasted delicious, and they were extremely easy to make. I would have liked to roll them a bit thicker for more authenticity, but I frequently get rolling pin happy. Rolling pin rings should keep me honest, but they don't work great with a tapered rolling pin. No biggie. It would also be fun to try the traditional way of baking them in a pan and cutting them into wedges.
Walkers-Style Shortbread Cookies
4 cups (17 ounces) flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups (4 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup (4 ounces) powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
Preheat oven to 350F. If you're doing the press-in-the-pan method, lightly butter a 9x13" pan and set aside. For individual cookies, line a baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper.
Whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder, and set aside. Using a mixer, beat the butter for two minutes. Add the sugar and beat, and then add the vanilla and beat again until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. With mixer on low, add flour mixture and mix until just blended. Now choose how you're going to proceed:
1. Press into prepared pan. With a bench scraper or sharp knife, score the dough into 1" x 3" "fingers," but don't cut all the way through. Use a fork and prick the top all over (in nice, neat rows, if you're anal like I am). Bake for 30-40 minutes or until it's just barely light brown. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cut through the score marks. Cool completely before storing in an air-tight container. OR
2. To roll and cut, chill the dough for at least an hour. Roll out to 1/4" to 1/2" thickness. Cut with a cookie cutter and place cookies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or a silpat. Bake 8-12 minutes or until just barely light brown and slightly firm. Cool. You can decorate these (I suppose with royal icing), but I think you should leave well enough alone and eat 'em plain.