I used to think of shortbread as a plain, somewhat disappointing (if not boring) cookie. Maddie and my dad were sold on its simplicity, but my mom and I weren't always convinced. This shortbread, however, completely re-imagines the crumbly dessert. In fact, these might be the most flavorful cookies to come out of my kitchen. Make these, and you'll have self-proclaimed shortbread skeptics begging for seconds. I promise.
Making the shortbread dough is incredibly fun—you'll feel like a candy confectionist! Warming up sugar until it turns a deep golden brown, pouring it onto a baking sheet like a pane of stained glass, and cracking it into bits to release golden sugar dust...I mean, I kinda want to put sugar bits into everything! Additionally, a combination of ground espresso and cold-brew coffee ensures that every bite of this shortbread is a coffee-lovers delight.
What with the addition of whole-wheat flour, the color of this shortbread leaves a little to be desired. But don't let that discourage you. In fact, it makes it more fun—the intense coffee flavor and sugar-y crunch is even more unexpected, and that much more tasty.
The Martha Stewart in me also wants to tell you that these pack wonderfully to send in the mail. They're delicate, sure, but they'll hold up better than a gooey brownie or anything with frosting. Just share the shortbread love. Your friends will thank you for it.
Whole Wheat Espresso Shortbread with Golden Sugar Crunch
Makes about 30 square cookies
- 1 cup sugar (for the golden sugar bits)
- 1 1/2 cups (24 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 tbsp. cold-brew coffee
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 cups whole-wheat flour (or sub all-purpose)
- 2 tbsp. very finely ground espresso
Spray a 9 x 13-inch rimmed sheet pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Pour the 1 cup sugar into a skillet set over medium-high heat. Mix the sugar continuously with a wooden spoon until it is completely melted and dark golden-brown in color, being careful not to burn it. Break any clumps of sugar apart as you stir. This should take about 5 minutes.
Pour the melted sugar onto the prepared sheet pan and spread it evenly using a rubber spatula. It will not fill the entire sheet pan.
Let the sugar cool completely at room temperature, about 30 minutes. Once it has completely hardened, crack it into small bits using a knife, a small hammer, the bottom of a small surface—whatever works. You might want to turn the sugar onto a cutting board before beginning. I cracked mine into tiny pieces—however, they can be up to 1/4-inch in size.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Rinse the sheet pan, dry it, and heavily butter the bottom and sides. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or using a hand mixer), mix the butter, confectioners’ sugar and salt on low speed for 10 seconds, then increase to medium-high speed and mix until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the cold brew coffee at a low speed, then increase the speed to medium-high and mix until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
In a separate large bowl, whisk together the flour and ground espresso. In a small bowl, mix 1/4 cup of the flour mixture with the majority of the sugar bits—save a few for sprinkling on top.
Add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix on low for about 30 seconds. Turn the machine off, add the remaining flour mixture and mix until just incorporated, another 30 seconds. Add the coated sugar bits and mix on low speed for another 5 seconds.
Press the dough evenly into the prepared sheet pan. Top the dough with reserved sugar bits and place in the oven. Bake 18 to 20 minutes, or until the middle is set. Let the shortbread cool completely before cutting into squares.
Adapted from Ovenly at Serious Eats