Up until a few weeks ago, I had been living in ignorance of the deliciousness that is a salted butter breakup, never even heard of it. Thankfully, I was enlightened while reading A Dollop Of Cream's post on the popular, yet not entirely mainstream cookie. I saw her photos of that big shortbread slab broken into pieces, and before even reading the description, I knew that I legit wanted/needed that cookie. Who can pass up a crunchy-on-the-outside-tender-on-the-inside sweet and buttery treat laced with hints of salt? Nobody, that's who.
In fact, I didn't fall into my usual pattern of adding it to my 'to bake' list which would mean a year (or more!) would pass before I'd get around to it. I literally wrote it in my planner for that very week with little hearts around it so I wouldn't forget to take out some butter ahead of time.
It helped that the ingredients are basic pantry staples, so there was no need to run to the store. Simple flour, sugar, butter, salt, and an egg yolk for the glaze.
With butter lending so much to the flavor of the cookie, I decided to bake one batch with regular unsalted Stirling butter and one batch with Stirling's Churn84 which has a higher percent of butterfat in it. It wasn't just an excuse to eat double the amount of cookies.. I did it for you. I did it for science.
The recipe is most often attributed to Dorie Greenspan, who has a special place in many bloggers hearts for her tasty, tasty recipes. Her books are popular for bake-throughs/cook-throughs where bloggers will work their way through the recipes one by one. This recipe is another winner.. and if you have a food processor it's a snap to throw together.
The flour, sugar, and salt are whizzed together. Then the chilled butter is pulsed in...
..until the mixture is crumbly and sandy.
Cold water is added while the food processor is running until the dough just barely pulls away from the bowl. It might still look crumbly, but should stick together when squeezed.
Then the dough is chilled, rolled out between two pieces of parchment into a 5 x 11 slab, and transfered onto a cookie sheet.
Next, the dough is lightly scored with a fork and brushed with an egg yolk. A single egg yolk provided me with enough glaze for both of my shortbread batches.
I baked the breakups one at a time, keeping the second one chilled in the fridge until the first one was done. They were each baked for exactly the same amount of time in order to keep things equal for the buttery experiment.
The slabs came out of the oven all golden and sweet-butter scented, but I let them sit for 20 minutes before sneaking a taste. I've been lured in by hot shortbread before (many, many times) and I now know that it really does taste better once it's cooled. Hot shortbread tastes like hot, buttery flour...and impatience... and regret.
Once they were cooled I broke off pieces and conducted a very exact and scientific investigation into the differences in flavor and texture between the two batches. Since the cookies were huge, this experiment continued for an entire week.
-This would be an amazing dinner party dessert: bring it to the table and let everyone break off a piece to go along with coffee and ice cream. Or! Make two huge batches and attempt to eat them almost entirely on your own. Your call.
-The batch made with the Churn84 (more butterfat) had a noticeably thicker, crispier crust than the batch made with the regular butter. On the inside they were both tender, but the one with Churn84 was denser and butterier.. only slightly but I noticed it on the first day. So crispier outside, buttery and more dense inside.
-I stored the cookies in ziplock bags, and by the third or fourth day the crusts (except for the very edges) had softened enough that I couldn't tell the difference between the two batches.
Ulitmately, I loved both batches, but was especially fond of the extra crispy edges on the batch made with Churn84. Either way, breakups will be making an appearance at my next dinner party, because even after extensive testing I could really go for a piece right now.
Salted Butter Breakups
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/2-1 tsp salt ( I used 2/3 tsp)
9 TBSP Stirling unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces (basically equal to 1/2 cup butter)
4-5 Tbsp. cold water
1 egg yolk
1. Place the flour, sugar, and salt into the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add in the cold butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly, sandy, and there are no pieces of butter bigger than the size of a pea.
2. With the food processor running, pour in the cold water until the dough barely pulls away from the sides of the bowl. It may still look crumbly, but should hold together when squeezed.
3.Turn the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and press into a disk. Wrap, and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.
4. Preheat the oven to 350. Once the dough has chilled, roll between two pieces of parchment paper into a 5 x 11 rectangle, and transfer to a baking sheet.Use a fork to score a cross hatch pattern into the surface of the dough, then whisk the egg yolk with a few drops of water and brush over the slab with a pastry brush to glaze it.
5. Bake for 30 - 40 minutes until the edges are golden brown and the center is firm but still springs up when pressed down. Transfer to a wire rack (you can move it by moving the parchment paper to the rack) until completely cool.
6. To serve: Break into pieces and enjoy!
Full Disclosure: Stirling sent me some butter, but I bake with it because I legitimately enjoy the product and find the quality makes a difference. I did not receive any payment for writing this post.