2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon (10 grams) cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) salt
1 cup (225 grams) butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (90 grams) confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons (6 grams) pure vanilla extract
Shortbread Buttons: In a bowl whisk the flour with the cornstarch and salt.
In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and vanilla extract and beat until smooth and creamy (about 2 minutes). Add the flour mixture and beat just until the dough starts to come together. Divide the dough in half. Place one half of the dough back into the bowl of your mixer and add enough food coloring to get the desired color. Then flatten the dough into a disk shape, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill the dough until firm (about one hour). Repeat the same process with the second half of your dough.
Once the dough is firm, remove one disk from the refrigerator and place it between two sheets of parchment paper, wax paper or plastic wrap. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough until it's about 1/8 inch (3 mm) thick. Then place the dough, along with the parchment paper, on a baking sheet and place in the refrigerator for about 20-30 minutes or until firm. Repeat the process with the second disk of dough.
Once the dough is firm, remove one sheet of dough from the refrigerator. Peel off the top sheet of parchment from the dough and, using a 2 inch (5 cm) round cookie cutter, cut out rounds. Place the rounds on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. (Gather up any leftover scraps of dough and reroll.) Then, taking a 1 3/4 inch (4 cm) cookie cutter, lightly press the top of each cookie making a slight indentation. Do not cut all the way through the cookie dough. Finally, take a 1/8 inch (3 mm) pastry tip (Wilton #7) and cut out two or four "button" holes in the center of each cookie. Place the sheet of unbaked cookies into the refrigerator to firm up while you preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for about a week or they can be frozen.
Makes about 35-40 shortbread cookies.
If my memory serves me right, the first time I saw a Shortbread Button Cookie was in a Donna Hay magazine. I immediately thought what an innovative way to dress up a regular shortbread cookie. And who doesn't like a shortbread with its buttery rich flavor and tender yet crumbly texture.
The secret to making a good shortbread is to use a high quality butter and pure vanilla extract. Butter in the States is graded according to flavor, color, texture, aroma and body and one easy way to tell the quality of the butter is by the letter code or numerical number listed on the butter's package. The highest grade is AA (93 score) and that is what I recommend you use in this cookie. When you buy vanilla extract make sure that it's labeled "pure". Stay away from the ones labeled "imitation" vanilla extracts as they are made with synthetic vanilla and they tend to leave a bitter aftertaste.
These Shortbread Buttons aren't difficult to make. Just make sure that your dough is well chilled when you're cutting the cookies into rounds and when you're cutting out the "button" holes. Once the cookies are cut in their shapes I like to chill the unbaked cookies before baking. This ensures that the cookies won't spread during baking.