Help me unlock the Mysteries of the Sacred Shortbread!
December 1, 2010 5:18 PM   Subscribe

Why is this shortbread so much better than any I've ever tried?

I have been making shortbread for years. It's pretty good. It contains flour, cornstarch, salt, sugar, and butter.

A friend of mine gets shortbread from his Canadian step-mom every year and every year it blows the socks off any other shortbread I've ever tried. It's super dense, has a very buttery taste, and has a very nice crumb, without being chalky. It's thicker than mine- close to a half inch- and it looks like she cuts it out into 1.5" scallopped-edged rounds after it's cooked. (I cook mine in a ceramic mold and cut it while it's warm.)

Years of wheedling got me what's ostensibly the recipe, which was nearly the same as mine, but with potato starch instead of the cornstarch. It also says to cook it at a little lower temperature.

However, when I tried it, it didn't work. It tasted chalky and a little potato-y. The I tried browning the butter, rechilling it, and then using it, and that came out oddly, too. I don't know how to get that rich, slightly browned-butter taste and I have no idea how to get it so dense without being tough.

Any baking experts out there? Any and all suggestions very gratefully received bar those involving vile adulterations such as chocolate, citrus, and ginger.
posted by small_ruminant to Food & Drink (63 answers total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
I think my grandmother used honey in hers to make it more dense, strange as that sounds!
posted by misha at 5:26 PM on December 1, 2010

I use cornstarch and icing sugar instead of granulated sugar, and I'm sure to sift all the dry ingredients. My recipe is as follows:

1 1/2 cup corn starch
1 1/2 cup icing sugar
3 cups all purpose flour
2 1/4 cup butter softened

Sift together corn starch, icing sugar & flour. With large spoon throroughly blend in butter
. Work with hands till soft, smooth dough forms. Shape into balls or use cookie press, or spread into a cookie sheet for thick, square cookies (recommended). Bake at 300 degrees for 40 - 45 minutes for the square cookies, 12 minutes for cookie press.
posted by torisaur at 5:29 PM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, also, prick it all over with a fork if you make the square cookies.
posted by torisaur at 5:31 PM on December 1, 2010

Don't know about shortbread, but I know someone who has a sugar cookie recipe that includes, as the secret step: wrap the dough in wax paper and ziplock bag, and put it in the freezer for 2+ weeks, then pull out and bake. Something about the long time in the freezer gives the sugar cookies a wonderful texture and flavor.

A few other thoughts:
Could your oven temp be off?
Could she be at a different elevation than you?
Could you be working the dough more or less than she is?
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:32 PM on December 1, 2010

Try a fine sugar, like berry sugar
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 5:34 PM on December 1, 2010

What technique are you using to mix the ingredients together? This may or may not apply to shortbread, but my cookies got a lot better once I started creaming the butter & sugar together REALLY thoroughly, like for a few minutes with an electric hand mixer. Then I mix in the wet ingredients, then incorporate the flour/dry ingredients just a little bit at a time.

Refrigerating cookie dough for a couple of days before baking usually improves the flavor, too (see also: NYTimes chocolate chip cookies).
posted by pikachulolita at 5:35 PM on December 1, 2010

I think we're both at sea level.

Yes, the oven temp could be off.

I was always warned to touch the dough as little as possible or I'd get tough cookies. Maybe I should be rethinking that? I want them as crumbly as possible, but maybe they just won't get as dense if I don't hand-knead some.
posted by small_ruminant at 5:35 PM on December 1, 2010

This might be dopey, but is there a possibility of a transcription error somewhere (e.g., mixing up tablespoons and teaspoons for the measurement of the potato starch)?

As for the brown butter flavor, what about browning only a portion of it, and adding that directly to the creamed sugar and remaining (non-browned) butter?
posted by scody at 5:35 PM on December 1, 2010

The density without toughness is something you can improve with pastry flour (lower protein flour that results in better crumb for cakes, cookies, pies, etc.). I like Bob's Red Mill whole wheat pastry flour, but white pastry flour is more traditional.

As for the brown butter flavour, there are two issues there - one is the quality of the butter (I find cultured European-style is best for flavour and also is generally has a little less water) and the other is the baking (you'll need apply sufficient heat to brown the cookies a little if you want a browned taste, though shortbread is not traditionally browned). What temperature are you baking them at now? Also, are you sure the brown flavour is from the butter in particular, rather than just caramelized sugar in general (for which you need to bake above 350F).
posted by ssg at 5:36 PM on December 1, 2010

I have tried all the sugars but I will revisit the icing sugar idea. It has cornstarch mixed in, usually, so maybe that helps.
posted by small_ruminant at 5:36 PM on December 1, 2010

Also, I second the resting time in the fridge or freezer.
posted by ssg at 5:37 PM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

how about using fancy-pants 'european style' butter? it apparently has higher fat then the american stuff. might be worth a shot, especially for such a butter-dependent application. you can get it at whole-foods-type places.
posted by genmonster at 5:37 PM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

Maybe she is using Plugra or a similar type butter?
posted by Shoeburyness at 5:38 PM on December 1, 2010

Yes, it's a browned butter flavor, not sugar, and it's only visibly browner on the bottoms. Maybe putting it in a very hot oven and then reducing the temperature right away?

I use Kerrygold butter, but I will try the European cultured.

I have usually cooked mine at 300F. Her recipe calls for 275F.
posted by small_ruminant at 5:38 PM on December 1, 2010

ssg, have you tried resting it for shortbread? Or only for sugar cookies?
posted by small_ruminant at 5:39 PM on December 1, 2010

I believe Canadian flour is different to the US, since our milk is so different it wouldn't surprise me if our butter was different too. Can you order Canadian ingredients?
posted by saucysault at 5:43 PM on December 1, 2010

I know several people who refuse to give out their recipes until pestered, and even then they "forget" a key ingredient. Could that be what's going on here?
posted by runningwithscissors at 5:52 PM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

Er, I'm a little unclear - have you tried browning the butter BEFORE baking the cookies? Like before mixing it in?
posted by maryr at 5:52 PM on December 1, 2010

I think your problem is with the cornstarch. It is known to have a bit of an off flavor compared to flour and can be chalky. Potato starch is better in cakes, but the difference is subtle to me. Rice flour is a traditional Scottish way of doing it, 50/50 with wheat flour. The reason for cornstarch, potato starch and rice flour is low protein which makes for a more tender biscuit Cake flour has a very low protein content and can also be used. If the biscuit you seek is more dense I suggest trying all purpose flour with little or no adjunct such as cornstarch. Experimentation with different flours and varying the ratios of the ingredients, one at a time, will get you there and the process seems somewhat enjoyable and tasty.
posted by caddis at 5:55 PM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I know several people who refuse to give out their recipes until pestered, and even then they "forget" a key ingredient. Could that be what's going on here?

The thought had occurred to me...

Yes, I tried browning it before I cooked the cookies, but it sounds like it might be possible to get a little of that browned taste just by cooking the dough correctly.

I hadn't thought about Canadian ingredients being different!
posted by small_ruminant at 5:57 PM on December 1, 2010

Generic all purpose flour in Canada will be about 13% protein. Check to see if the flour you're using is similar.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 5:58 PM on December 1, 2010

Canadian "all-purpose" flour has much higher gluten levels than American APF. Have you tried replacing all or part of the flour with a gluten-heavy flour like bread flour?
posted by muddgirl at 5:58 PM on December 1, 2010

D'oh! Sorry for the repeat!
posted by muddgirl at 5:58 PM on December 1, 2010

What type of pan does she use? That could make a significant difference.
posted by vers at 5:59 PM on December 1, 2010

Try adding a teaspoon or two of vanilla for a kick of sweetness.

Also don't over do it on the flour, otherwise you get dry, bland tasting cookies. Just enough so the dough doesn't stick to the table and cookie sheet.
posted by Kippersoft at 5:59 PM on December 1, 2010

To secondd caddis: I think it's the corn starch that's keeping your shortbreads down. I've never seen or made a recipe for shortbread with cornstarch (or potato starch, for that matter) in it. They're all butter, flour, powdered/icing sugar (sometimes brown sugar, sometimes raw sugar) with some sort of flavoring (extract, zest, ground nuts, coffee), salt and nothing else.

That said, browned butter makes everything better, but you have to let it resolidify before making shortbread with it.
posted by crush-onastick at 6:04 PM on December 1, 2010

A Canadian wine merchant I used to deal with said that her mother always toasted the flour in the oven before mixing the shortbread. I have not tried this, as I am always in a big hurry when I'm making shortbread, but . . .

Kneading the dough a bit will probably not make the cookies tough, not with all that butter--it's called shortening because it shortens the gluten strands, long ones of which are what make baked goods tough. It might make the crumb better, too.
posted by miss patrish at 6:04 PM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

My shortbread is just like you describe. Growing up we had a Scottish lady that lived next door. She taught us how to make it. There's just three ingredients:

1/2 c berry sugar
1 c butter
2 c flour

I find it's better when you let the butter come to room temperature and then (as pikachulolita says), mix it really thoroughly. I roll it out to about 1/2" thick (or more), cut into squares with a knife and poke the top of each with a fork for decoration.

A low oven temperature is also key. 275 is the best - any lower and the dough just starts to melt on the sheet. Mrs Robertson always said you shouldn't cook shortbread .. you should dry it out. I leave it in the oven for an hour. They come out slightly browned on the bottom. You have resist the temptation to eat them while they're warm because they taste better after they've cooled down.
posted by nelvana at 6:09 PM on December 1, 2010 [39 favorites]

Oh, and it's just regular butter and flour - nothing fancy.
posted by nelvana at 6:10 PM on December 1, 2010

Well, according to Ruhlman, and he is much more knowledgeable than most, and certainly more so than I, the proportion of rice to regular flour is 1 to 2 and he uses the classic 1, 2 3 ratio of sugar, butter and flours.

and toasting the flour? that may be the secret that failed to make the recipe
posted by caddis at 6:11 PM on December 1, 2010

Yes, it's a browned butter flavor, not sugar, and it's only visibly browner on the bottoms. Maybe putting it in a very hot oven and then reducing the temperature right away?

I suspect your problem here is the ceramic mold. If you want your cookies browned on the bottom, you should use a metal cookie pan. The flavour you are looking for comes from Maillard reactions and those don't occur much until you get above 310F. Possibly your friend's Canadian step-mom's oven is actually holding a higher temperature than it indicates or it the temperature is varying a lot. Either way, the metal pan heats up quickly and transfers a lot of heat to the bottom of the shortbread, raising the temperature high enough to brown them. I'd recommend trying 325F to start with.

ssg, have you tried resting it for shortbread? Or only for sugar cookies?

I generally rest my shortbread in the fridge for at least a couple hours. It works well for me.

Canadian "all-purpose" flour has much higher gluten levels than American APF. Have you tried replacing all or part of the flour with a gluten-heavy flour like bread flour?

While the Canadian versus American wheat thing is sometimes true (depending on the brand and the region of the USA), if you want a nice crumb, you want less gluten, not more.

I don't use any starch in my shortbread either and I don't think it is helpful if you are using pastry flour.
posted by ssg at 6:12 PM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Quick responses! Thank you! I will go try some and let you know. Please keep the suggestions coming.
posted by small_ruminant at 6:20 PM on December 1, 2010

Also, if the oven in question is electric, even if the air temperature inside is below 310F, the metal cookie pan itself may be hotter because of the radiative heat from the element. Just another reason to use a metal pan.
posted by ssg at 6:20 PM on December 1, 2010

I wonder if you are eating your cookies too soon after baking - shortbread cookies tend to taste better the longer they sit.

Last December I decided to find the perfect shortbread cookie recipe. After two weeks and lots of different techniques, I learned the following:
- Cookies using cornstarch or potato starch can taste funny.
- Rice flour makes the cookie have a nice crumbly texture.
- Do not overmix the dough. Starting with cool butter (slightly cooler than room temp), use your fingertips to mix it into the remaining ingredients then gently press into the pan. Otherwise the cookies will be tough and oily.
- European butter was not worth the expense. It added subtle difference that most people didn't notice.

I ended up with the following recipe:
1 1/2 c flour
1/2 c rice flour
1/2 c sugar
1/2 lb butter, at cool room temp (can be browned beforehand)

Sift flours into sugar. Mix in butter until resembles bread crumbs. Press into parchment/buttered 8" cake pan, prick with a fork and bake at 325 degrees until lightly brown (approx 35 min). Remove from pan and cut into pieces while still warm.
posted by bCat at 6:21 PM on December 1, 2010 [3 favorites]

Ooh - about the flour.

I recently read this article about how proper flour is the key to making buttermilk biscuits from Pinch My Salt. Snips:
White Lily flour [which is best for making buttermilk biscuits] is made from 100% soft winter wheat and it has a much lower protein content than other brands of all-purpose flours. I won’t get too technical because for the purpose of this post, all you really need to know is this:
less protein = better for quick breads
more protein = better for yeast breads

Not all flours are created equal. Southern bleached all-purpose flours are made from the soft winter wheat that grows well in the warmer southern climate while northern all-purpose flours are made from the hard spring wheats that grow in the colder climate. Strains of soft winter wheat have less protein than the hard spring wheat and therefore southern all-purpose flours are better-suited for quick breads such as biscuits, cakes and muffins.

[Then she has a list of the protein contents of major brands of flour.]
And then from Pastry Craft Seattle, an article about flour:
With shortbread [unlike chewy Italian bread]... You want a fine, tender crumb and that means using flour that has a low protein content which won’t achieve much gluten structure. That’s what allows the shortbread to melt in your mouth.

[she suggests using cake flour, or part cake flour, which has a lower protein content than northern brands of all-purpose flour; pastry flour also has lower protein content]
What's strange about this is that all-purpose flour varies its protein content by region, and Canadian all-purpose flour should surely be at the high protein end of the scale. So I would think you would already be using a lower-protein flour than she is using.

Maybe what you prefer in a shortbread is accentuated by high protein, though? Maybe check the chart of protein contents of national brands above, and see where your brand falls, and then try it with a brand that has more protein?

Also, different flours absorb different amounts of liquid so you might end up wanting to adjust amounts accordingly.
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:22 PM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

You might know berry sugar by a different name. Just to be clear, it's a superfine granulated sugar, and might be called caster sugar or fruit sugar. It isn't a powdered sugar.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 6:27 PM on December 1, 2010 [3 favorites]

I love this kind of recipe troubleshooting on metafilter! However in this situation I'd probabaly just cut to the chase and find a recipe from a reliable source that has done the optimizing for me. Why not find the Cook's Illustrated article/recipe for shortbread, which is probably reprinted in an America's Test Kitchen cookbook too. Or I might consult Shirley Corriher's incredibly awesome cookbook Cookwise--I believe it's got a shortbread recipe in it, and she's very clear about why particular ingredients and techniques matter....

Good luck solving this problem--sounds delicous. :)
posted by Sublimity at 6:32 PM on December 1, 2010

Canadian here: I know of those yummy buttery shortbreads of which you speak (and their useless chalky cardboard namesakes). Recipes with the good shortbread that I use here, are all pastry flour, butter, regular white sugar (and sometimes a bit of 'golden' brown sugar). Nothing special (from this Canuck's perspective).

However, from a US perspective, the gluten difference between US and Cdn flours is significant in AP and Bread flour (enough that I can't use US bread recipes and even AP recipes are a bit off). However, with pastry flour I don't think there's much difference, since you're aiming for low gluten anyway (hence potato flour). You might wish to experiment with the ratio of potato to pastry flour.

The difference in the crumb, may indeed be a difference in the humidity (ambient and perhaps even in the flour itself). It would be ideal if you were using a recipe that was based on weight rather than volume. For what it's worth, when I use US recipes, I tend to use less flour and more liquid, so one possibility is to reverse this and use a little more flour and less liquid (if there is liquid in your recipe at all).

The difference with the butter is the kind of butter and how it tastes. Even between Canadian butters, there are different tastes, and some brands just taste 'butterier'. I would experiment with the butters, just tasting them to see which is the best. My butteriest butter here is the European style that I get at Safeway (but is Canadian produced). It also browns more than the other butters, I think because the better butter has less liquid content. So, I don't think you're dealing with prebrowning the butter, I think you have the wrong butter. Further, a butter with a higher liquid content would easier activate the gluten and more likely lead to toughness.

Just my thoughts. I hope you have luck. A good shortbread is a very good thing indeed.
posted by kch at 6:56 PM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I just want to nth using powdered/finer sugar. I find it gives "plainly" flavored cookies a much better crumb and taste.
posted by lizjohn at 6:58 PM on December 1, 2010

Canuck here. I offer up my great-grandmother's shortbread recipe, which, as someone who produces 80-100 cakes per year of it per year (and used to help my mother do so all through my childhood), very modestly say that everyone who I've given it to raves about it. My boss swears like a sailor when I show up with two cakes, because she knows she'll wind up eating a whole one on her own.

I take *no* credit for this raving; we make it at such a breakneck pace (usually 30 batches every year), there is no artistry that goes into it, just throw it all together. I'm simply fortunate enough to be able to share her genius-ity at Christmas time with my friends and co-workers:

-1 lb. butter (I usually use salted, but no special kind -- often buy it from the US because it's cheaper)
-1 scant cup of berry/fruit sugar (not quite a full cup)
-4 cups flour (I've used any kind, but Canadian, eh -- US flour is no good)
-1 heaping tbsp rice flour

Soften butter in the microwave (30-40 seconds, just so it starts to sag).
Add sugar to butter in a large bowl.
Mix thoroughly with a hand mixer or a wooden spoon.
Add flour and rice flour a cup or so at a time, kneading it in until it makes a dough, then adding more. Don't work it too, too much, but it's not pastry. so don't get too worried.
Divide and pat into three 8" pie plates (8" plates are the absolute BEST, but difficult to find; 9.25" will work okay, but not quite as well).
Poke 4-5 rows of holes with a fork (just sorta breaking the surface).
Bake @ 275 degrees or one hour. Cut into squares will still hot.

Enjoy the fatty, carb-y goodness. :-)
posted by liquado at 8:33 PM on December 1, 2010 [22 favorites]

I must jump in to rant that White Lily flour was bought by the godless heathens at Smuckers, who moved production up Nawth to a different sort of mill, and it is no longer the White Lily so beloved by Southern biscuit makers.
posted by cyndigo at 8:40 PM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

What kind of oven does she have? Is it significantly different than yours?

I have a gas oven and most of the heat comes from the bottom of the oven. Everything in the oven ends up being browned on the bottom rather than the top.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:14 PM on December 1, 2010

I agree with those that say to rest the dough. The browner bottom at a lower temperature makes me think she may be cooking hers in a glass pan.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:35 PM on December 1, 2010

More butter.
posted by sophist at 9:37 PM on December 1, 2010

The best shortbread I ever made used semolina as well as wheat flour. It was crisp, crumbly, buttery, delicious. This recipe is from Mary Berry, the grande dame of British baking.

I'd also suggest that maybe the ceramic is stopping the shortbread from browning properly. Try baking it on a metal tray.
posted by essexjan at 12:05 AM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I offer up my great-grandmother's shortbread recipe,

GAH! Minus the rice flour, this is my grandma's recipe, but I've never once seen a similar recipe (which made it difficult to perfect the recipe, lacking internet back-up. Where were you 5 years ago, liquado?).

So, I just want to second this recipe as an example of SUPERB shortbread. Dense, buttery, crumbly, melt-in-your-mouth. MMM.
posted by oohisay at 4:09 AM on December 2, 2010

> Yes, the oven temp could be off.

You should fix that straight away as it'll improve everything else too and is a cheap fast fix--just get one of those uber cheap oven thermometers they sell at like the chain grocery store, they sit on the wall and tell you what the temp really is. Every single place I've lived in on my own the oven temp reads wrong, sometimes by as much as 100 degrees (!)--sometimes it's a gradual move from calibration other times right off the bat. It's much cheaper and easier to just get one of those things and learn the habits of your personal quirky oven (for the last year or so I know to set mine about 75 degrees less than called for).
posted by ifjuly at 7:07 AM on December 2, 2010

> I must jump in to rant that White Lily flour was bought by the godless heathens at Smuckers, who moved production up Nawth to a different sort of mill, and it is no longer the White Lily so beloved by Southern biscuit makers

Thank you for clarifying that; I'd heard endless raving about that stuff from my South Carolina in-laws for years, then when I finally move to the South and try it I find it is horrible and pretty much struggle to find ways to use it and not just throw the whole bag away, which translated into months of badly textured baked goods, ugh.

What's this about Canadian vs. American flour? I use King Arthur in various guises for things and am now intrigued...

And as mentioned, don't overwork the dough. It's like almost entirely butter, and you know how that goes with overmixing in pastry-type endeavors...
posted by ifjuly at 7:15 AM on December 2, 2010

My mom makes a cookie called "Butter Balls" -- the recipe calls for making the dough and then letting it sit in the fridge for 24 hours. The times when I've cheated and baked them immediately have resulted in significantly less buttery flavor (as in: virtually none). The butter used is room temp and not browned beforehand -- I think the baking takes care of the browning flavor. I really think resting the dough for 24 hours or more is going to be a critical factor here.
posted by MeiraV at 7:44 AM on December 2, 2010

Just to round out this discussion on flour here is Joe Pastry's flour primer.
posted by caddis at 9:26 AM on December 2, 2010

I would check salted vs. unsalted butter, and also check kosher salt vs. table salt. Salt content could make a big difference in masking/removing that "chalky" taste from the starches.

And I would see how she actually measures the ingredients--one person above recommended weighing ingredients rather than using volumes...that would be my preferred way of confirming that you're REALLY making it exactly the same way as your friend's step-mom.

I would also like to add that my Irish mother makes shortbread using margarine (I KNOW!), although she calls it butter and her recipe says butter. So that would be one last thing to check.
posted by bcwinters at 9:32 AM on December 2, 2010

Berry and fruit sugar--where in the U.S. would you get something like that? I want to try great-grandma's shortbread recipe!
posted by misha at 11:17 AM on December 2, 2010

misha, it's usually called superfine or caster sugar in the states and is near the granulated sugar or coffee sweeteners.

You can also make your own by grinding granulated sugar in a food processor.
posted by ifjuly at 12:03 PM on December 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

On the subject of measurements, a cup in Canada can mean 237ml or 250ml. Not a huge difference, but it could be an issue. Flour is a very variable in density, so if you can use mass, you'll be much better off.
posted by ssg at 12:19 PM on December 2, 2010

On the subject of measurements, a cup in Canada can mean 237ml or 250ml.
What? No no, I really don't think so. In Canada, we either measure by ml OR by cups, and usually by cups. A cup in Canada = one cup. I turn my measuring cup (which, like most Canadian measuring cups has metric printed on one side and Imperial on the other) to cups. And we do know that with baking it makes a difference I think, generally. I would be *very* surprised that her recipe was for 250ml of flour and she communicated that as "one cup".
posted by kch at 3:34 PM on December 2, 2010

Whatever you do, please tell us what the answer is!
posted by Ollie at 4:20 PM on December 2, 2010

Well, I tried this one, because I had all the ingredients at hand already, and still ended up with a sugar-cookie-like cookie. A little too moist, mostly. Tasty but not what I'd hoped.

However, I may not have used the right pie pans. Should they be metal? Glass? Those aluminum disposable ones? I only had a single, big glass one, so that's what I used. I patted it out to about half an inch.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:46 PM on December 6, 2010

Did you poke holes in it? According to Joe Pastry these holes are more than mere decorations; they let steam escape to keep the shortbread more dense.
posted by caddis at 5:36 PM on December 6, 2010

Perhaps you could offer up a photo of your shortbread? It might make it easier to diagnose the problem.
posted by Deathalicious at 6:04 PM on December 6, 2010

You're right! I forgot to poke holes in it!

I think there are a couple of pieces left. If there are, I'll post a photo.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:37 AM on December 7, 2010

Are you eating it straight out of the oven? In my experience, shortbread tastes insanely better when rested (after baking) for several days (obviously in an airtight place so it doesn't dry out). Could that have to do with why your friend's shortbread is better.

Resting pre-and post-baking are both awesome for really nuanced, delicious flavors.
posted by R a c h e l at 4:55 PM on December 8, 2010

Ok, I tried liquado's recipe again, and this time

1) cooked it in glass pie dishes instead of the glass baking dish I had before (not 8", though- they're bigger)

2) melted the butter too much- it was pretty goopy when I mixed the sugar in

3) remembered to fork holes in the top, down an eighth of an inch or so. Forking it was harder than I expected- bits of dough kept coming off on the fork tines.

4) cooked it an hour and 10 minutes at 275F, which is how long it took for the edges to brown ever so slightly.

5) sugared the top after it was out of the oven, with the superfine sugar (berry sugar)

I just pulled it out of the oven, and though I know it's too soon to know much, I couldn't resist a bite of the browned bits and it's AWESOME. It's already a lot closer to what I was looking for, even still warm!

I think the key points were the super-soft butter and the shape of the pie dishes.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:54 PM on December 16, 2010 [3 favorites]

Glad I could help -- and, FWIW, I'm fighting with new pie plates right now, and a wonky temp control, that have me in the 1:10/275 area, as well. I never was a fan of the sugar on top, but glad it's working for you!

And, if you melt the butter too too much, a few minutes in the freezer gets you back in the game. :)
posted by liquado at 10:52 PM on December 17, 2010

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