Today I woke up and decided to finally make my Nana’s shortbread cookies. I learned a few years ago that my mother had passed along my nana’s shortbread cookie recipe to my daughter, Kara. Kara made these wonderful cookies for me several times during the holidays and I loved them. The recipe looked simple enough although, I must say I questioned the fact that an ingredient was mentioned in the directions but did not appear in the list of ingredients and I thought the oven temperature was low but decided to prepare the recipe as presented.
Now, in the meantime, I came across a Cooking Light recipe for a Vanilla Bean Shortbread in a copy of Cooking Light Favorite Comfort Food Recipes 2011 that sounded really good. So, I thought: Why not prepare both and see how the lighter recipe stood up to my nana’s exceedingly rich shortbread.
Nana’s Shortbread –(as it was given to me)
½ lb. butter
¾ cup confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
- Cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla, flour and salt. Place dough in center of pan and place a sheet of wax paper over and press down from the center to the sides to make even and spread dough in 13”x9” pan. Prick rows, around 7, with fork. Put in 325° oven for 20 minutes or until turning slightly brown at the edges. Take out and slice in bars, but leave in pan until completely cool. Go around pan with a spatula to release.
I saw that salt noted in the directions, so I added ¼ teaspoon to the flour mixture. I believe the temperature and length of time in the oven should have been different. I would have baked in a 350° oven for 25 to 30 minutes. The cookies around the edges were really flaky but were softer towards the center.
I spoke to Kara a few days later and we talked about nana’s recipe. She said that she had experimented with this recipe quite a bit. She mentioned that if I used salted butter I probably would not need additional salt. Also, she mentioned that she prefers taller cookies, so she bakes her dough in a smaller pan (8x8x2, 9” round, etc.) and cooks a bit longer.
Vanilla Bean Shortbread-Cooking Light
9 ounces all-purpose flour (about 2 cups)
¼ cup cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup canola oil
½ cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Line bottom and sides of 13 x 9 inch metal baking pan with foil; coat foil with cooking spray, and set aside.
- Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, cornstarch, and salt in a large bowl; stir with a whisk.
- Place butter in a medium bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add oil; beat with a mixer at medium speed 3 minutes or until well blended.
Gradually add sugar, beating well. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean, and add seeds to butter mixture; discard bean. Add flour mixture, beating at low speed just until blended. Spoon dough into prepared pan. Please a sheet of heavy-duty plastic wrap over dough; press to an even thickness. Discard plastic wrap. Bake at 350° for 30-minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool in pan 5 minutes on a wire rack; cut into 32 pieces. Carefully lift foil from pan; cool squares completely on a wire rack.
CALORIES 101; FAT 6.4g (sat 2.1g, mono 2.8g, poly 1.2g); PROTIEN 0.9g; CARB 10.1g; FIBER 0.2g; CHOL 8mg; IRON 0.4mg; SODIUM 39mg; CALC 2mg.
The only problem I had with this recipe was finding a vanilla bean at my local grocery store. I went to four stores before finally finding one, and then I was shocked at the price. Otherwise, the rest of the ingredients were readily available.
Now, let’s talk about the end result of spending the entire afternoon in the kitchen preparing both recipes. I gave my husband a piece of nana’s, then a piece of the vanilla bean shortbread and asked which one he like better.
“I liked the second. It is sweeter,” Randy simply said.
Next, I prepared two plates with several cookies on each. Plate ‘A’ had my nana’s, plate ‘B’ had the Cooking Light shortbread and sent them over to our friends, neighbors and official taste testers, Bob and Sandy.
Sandy called and said that they actually liked both, but for very different reasons.
“Plate ‘A’ (Nana’s shortbread) would be really good spread with lots of sweet strawberry jam and a cup of tea,” Sandy said.
“We liked ‘B’ (Vanilla Bean Shortbread) better. We liked the flaky texture and flavor,” Sandy went on.
Sandy went on to say that she normally does not like to dunk anything into her tea saying, “I don’t like seeing little pieces of food floating in my tea”. But she said, “I can see me doing that with these delicious cookies”.
So which shortbread did I like best? Like Bob and Sandy, I liked both for different reasons. I loved my nana’s because, well, they were my nana’s. Also, they are beyond rich and buttery. And, made Kara’s way, in a smaller pan, they are tall, very flaky and a wonderful treat.
But as I have mentioned in several blogs, I have become more and more aware that I need to consider healthier food choices. The Cooking Light Vanilla Bean Shortbread met all my needs. These cookies were light, flavorful, a much healthier choice, and best of all they melted in my mouth.
I will make both of these shortbread cookies again. Nana’s for special ocassions to share with friends and family and Cooking Light’s whenever I need a sweet treat.