I’ve only recently started to appreciate whole grain food as anything other than a healthy alternative that requires a compromise in flavor. For some foods, this is true – pizza crust is less tender and the dough harder to work with when whole wheat flour is substituted for a portion of the white flour; many rustic breads get most of their flavor from a slow fermentation of white flour; and certainly I’m not interested in making chocolate chip cookies with whole wheat flour.
But that doesn’t mean that whole grain food can’t be enjoyed for what it is, and not just as a healthy substitute. These cookies are unabashedly whole grain, and that’s part of their charm. But don’t worry – I wouldn’t call them healthy.
The recipe is straightforward and I had no real problems. I did rework it to be baked in a square pan because I don’t have the 10-inch springform pan that it calls for. Who has all these crazy pans that Martha’s recipes always call for? One step that I followed, but didn’t really understand the point of, was scoring the edges of the cookies halfway through baking. Also, my skewer pricks in the cookies got covered by the granulated sugar sprinkled on top. In retrospect, I could have repricked the cookies after the sugar was added to keep the design.
Besides that small nitpicking, the recipe was easy. And the cookies were so good! They’re really tender from all that butter. I’m having trouble describing the flavor; all I can think of is “earthy” but that doesn’t sound like a compliment. But the bran really added an extra dimension of flavor that was balanced wonderfully by the butter and sugar.
Wheatmeal Shortbread Cookies (from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook, slightly reworded)
MS note: Be sure to sprinkle the shortbread with granulated sugar as soon as it comes out of the oven; this will help the sugar adhere to the cookie.
1 cup (5 ounces) unbleached flour, plus more for dusting
¾ cup whole wheat flour
¼ cup wheat bran
¾ teaspoon salt
14 tablespoons (1¾ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup (3.5 ounces) packed light brown sugar
granulated sugar, for sprinkling
1. Preheat the oven to 325F. Have ready a 10-inch round springform pan or a 10-inch tart pan with a removal bottom. Alternatively, line a 9-inch square pan with parchment paper.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix both flours, the bran, and the salt on low speed just to combine. Add the butter and brown sugar, and beat until all the ingredients come together and form a smooth dough, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
3. Turn the dough out into the pan. Using your fingers, spread out the dough evenly while pressing it firmly into the pan. Use a spoon to flatten the edges.
4. Place pan in oven, and reduce temperature to 300F. Bake until the edges just begin to turn golden, about 30 minutes. Remove pan from oven; using a bench scraper or long, sharp knife, score the cookie into 8 wedges (if using round pan) or 16 squares (if using square pan). Using the tip of a wooden skewer or the tines of a fork, prick the shortbread all over in a decorative pattern, if desired. Return pan to oven, and bake until golden all over, about 15 minutes more.
5. Transfer pan to a wire rack. Sprinkle shortbread with granulated sugar. Remove the sides of the pan (if using pan with removable bottom/sides) or use the parchment paper to lift the cookies out of the pan (if using a square pan). Let stand until completely cool before cutting into wedges. Shortbread can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.