Piped shortbread cookies are my family’s all-time-favourite but they are a nightmare for me to make. Women’s wrists (or is it just mine???) are simply not strong enough for the piping job, especially during the winter. In my experience, at cool room temperature, the cookie dough is usually too firm for piping. My wrists would be so sore and my cookies would end up having ragged edges. I have already discussed the keys to success when it comes to making piped or spritz cookies (read about my blog posts, Piped Vanilla Bean Shortbread Cookies and Viennese Sablés). The key is to start off with butter that is very, very, very soft. This time, I even include the temperatures of my dough so there are more references other than just pictures and my written descriptions.
This chocolate version is a variation of Piped Vanilla Bean Shortbread Cookies but I’ve modified it slightly by increasing the ratio of cornstarch to flour. This results in cookies that are even more tender. You may be daunted by the amount of butter being used here but please do not reduce the amount. Shortbread cookies are meant to be loaded with butter!!! If you are concerned that shortbread cookies are fattening, eat less instead of making them with less butter so you feel less guilty. If butter is reduced, the butter flour ratio is skewed, which leads to stiffer dough that is harder to pipe. Some people add milk or egg to soften up the dough so it’s more pipable. However, this also impacts both the taste and texture of the cookies. Note that I am not not saying this approach won’t work or is not doable. My point is just that altering the ingredients or ratio of a cookie recipe will result in a change of texture and taste. For instance, my Matcha Spritz Cookies contain egg yolk whereas my Viennese Sablés and Espresso Chocolate Spritz Cookies make use of egg white. They all have different and unique textures and are all delicious. If you are free (and have the quota for the extra amount of butter), I encourage you to try different recipes to see for yourself.
Piped Chocolate Shortbread Cookies
Makes 18 to 20
120 g salted butter (very soft)
45 g icing sugar
76 g cake and pastry flour
76 g cornstarch
13 g unsweetened cocoa powder
含鹽牛油 (非常柔軟) 120克
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or with an electric mixer, beat butter on low speed until smooth. Add icing sugar and beat on medium-low speed until mixture resembles soft mayo that is a bit shiny looking. If the butter looks stiff, warm the sides of the mixing bowl briefly with a hair-dryer to further soften the butter mixture. The ideal temperature of the mixture is 23-24℃.
Combine and sift together the flour, cornstarch and cocoa powder in a large bowl. Add to the butter mixture in two batches. Mix with the paddle attachment briefly then fold with a spatula to form a soft and pliable dough. Do not over-mix. A stiff dough is hard to pipe. If that is the case, soften the dough by briefly heating the sides of the mixing bowl with a hair dryer. The ideal temperature of the dough is 24-25℃.
Transfer the soft dough into a thick or silicone piping bag fitted with a large pastry tip. Eliminate all trapped air bubbles then pipe the dough onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. This portion will make about 18 to 20 large cookies as shown in the picture. Refrigerate for 10 minutes. While waiting, preheat the oven to 325℉/160℃.
Slide the piped cookies and the parchment paper onto another room temperature cookie sheet. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a cooling rack. For better flavour, store cookies in an airtight container and allow the cookies to rest and develop flavour overnight and consume the next day.
Butter with a cool temperature would make the dough stiff. Stiff dough is hard to pipe unless you have a strong wrist. Cookies would also have ragged edges.