My mother always made the best shortbread when I was a kid. I took it for granted that shortbread would be around every Christmas, but my piano teacher didn’t. He was British, just like my mum, and he waited every year for my mother’s shortbread, which I would present to him as a holiday thank you, packaged up in a cardboard box or Christmas tin. I think it wasn’t until he actually said something about how much he loved my mother’s shortbread that I started paying attention to this cookie that had no chocolate in it.
Amazingly, shortbread has only three ingredients (sometimes four, but by definition 3). Sugar. Butter. Flour. Traditionally, these three ingredients were weighed out with a very simple ratio – 1 part sugar, 2 parts butter and 3 parts oat flour. More recently, home cooks use a 1:1 ratio of butter and all-purpose flour (1 stick of butter to 1 cup of flour), making the 3 ingredient ratio 1 part sugar, 2 parts butter, 2 parts flour. Both ratios work, but the outcomes are a little different. The 1:2:3 ratio gives you a cookie that is more dense. The 1:2:2 butter:flour ratio gives you a cookie that is more tender.