Servings: Makes about 40 cookies
1 ¼ cups (310 ml) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup (250 ml) icing sugar, sifted
1 ½ tsp (7 ml) vanilla bean paste (or extract, if paste is not available)
1 ½ cups (375 ml) all-purpose flour (plain flour)
1/3 cup (80 ml) cornstarch (cornflour)
¼ tsp (1 ml) salt
1. Preheat the oven to 325 °F (160 °C) and line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.
2. Beat the butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes (5 minutes if by hand). Beat in the vanilla bean paste (or extract). It’s an important step to beat the butter and sugar well together when making shortbread – this ensures the cookie will hold together and when you take a bite it will ‘snap’ and then melt away.
3. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, cornstarch and salt and add to the butter, mixing until blended and soft. Spoon the dough into a piping bag fitted with a large star tip (or into a cookie press). Pipe cookies about 1 ½-inches (3.8 cm) across onto the prepared baking trays and leaving an inch (2.5 cm) between each cookie. If you want a flatter cookie that spreads, bake right away. For a cookie that sits up and holds its shape, chill the piped unbaked cookies for 15 minutes before baking. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the cookies just begin to brown lightly on the bottom. Cool the cookies on the trays before storing in an airtight container.
The cookies will keep up to a week.
For chocolate-dipped cookies, melt 3 ounces (90 g) of dark chocolate and dip each Viennese swirl half way into the chocolate and shake off any excess. Return the cookies to a parchment-lined baking tray and chill just to set the chocolate.