These are literally my favorite cookies of all time. I know that everyone has their own shortbread recipe, and they're all attached to them, but this is the one I grew up eating and it is therefore the gold standard against which I judge all shortbread cookies. They come apart in your mouth like little pillows of heaven sent from the angels. Light, glorious: shortbread at its best. This is my mother's 'secret' recipe, which she got off the back of a box of Benson's cornstarch. They're amazing!
1/2 cup Benson's cornstarch
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup softened butter (room temperature is usually fine)
7 maraschino cherries
a bit of sugar
you'll also need:
2 baking sheets
sturdy mixing spoon (or mixer)
a love of shortbread
a small bowl
something to press your cookies with (I used the bottom of a small glass bowl)
1. strain your maraschino cherries. Blot lightly on paper towel. Cut into quarters and set aside.
2. line your baking sheets with foil (this covers any imperfections in your cookies sheets. Mine are crappy. If yours are nice, you can skip this step).
3. stir together cornstarch, icing sugar, and flour in your mixing bowl. With mixing spoon, blend in butter until soft, smooth dough forms. You'll know when this is happening because you will start to smell the butter very, very strongly. There will be no need to grease your cookie sheet because of all this wonderful butter.
4. pick off clumps of dough and roll them into small balls in your hands. Place them on cookie sheets, about 12 to a sheet. This recipe makes about 24 cookies, bot don't be worried if you have a few more.
5. put sugar in a small bowl. Dip whatever you're using to flatten the cookies in the sugar, then gently flatten them. Remember to revisit the sugar for each cookie: you don't want them to stick to whatever you're flattening them with.
6. preheat oven to 300 F. This won't take that long. While that's happening, gently press the pieces of maraschino cherry into the top of each cookie.
5. bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned. Remove from oven, and place on a wire rack to cool using a metal spatula. Be gentle with them.
6. eat your cookies. You can eat them with milk or a nice glass of red or rose wine. You will love them.
note: you could put anything you want on top of your cookies, or nothing at all. Little chocolates also work nicely, as does colored sugar. Also, if you are using a mixer instead of a spoon, put the butter in first and then gradually add the mixture of the other ingredients, or else you will get a big pouffe of flour all over the place.
I got this recipe from my mother, who got it from the back of a box of cornstarch. Though Benson's may have ulterior motives, these are truly great cookies.