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YELLOW yet CRUNCHIER version TESTING 1-2-3 . . . I had a craving for shortbreads at the same time that I had a craving for cornbread and polenta. I needed to do some math, so as to figure out what makes a shortbread what it is and what happens if you modify this tried-and-tested basic recipe.

A basic shortbread is truly basic : 1 part sugar, 2 parts butter, 3 parts flour. In other words for 100 grams of sugar, you’ll need 200 grams of butter and 300 grams of flour and the resulting calculations (when you break it all down) yield a protein content of 5%-6%, a fat content of 26%-27% and a carbohydrates content of 52%-53%. A more precise calculation of the proportional ratios would actually be 1:5:10 (which sounds magical to me).

If I wanted something crispier & grainier (or ‘sandier’ because in French, a shortbread is called a ‘sablé’ or sandy cookie) and tastier (even though a regular shortbread is tasty yet simple), I would have to recombine different flours and starches and textures to achieve this, while trying  to respect the initial proportions or ratios.

What you see here is the result. FANTASTIC.

It’s still a shortbread cookie. It’s a mellow yellow color below the blindingly white sugar coating (as we do for greek almond ‘kourabiedes’ shortbreads). When you bite into it, it melts in your mouth but tiny grains of sweet cornmeal give it even more taste, body and ‘crunch’ and the finer icing sugar glaze topped with larger sugar crystals just adds to that crunch.

I’ve been making a batch of these once every week now for the past 3 weeks. I should stop, right ?! . . . :)

crispier butter & cornmeal shortbreads


12-14 shortbreads (3 x 10 cm each & 55-60 grams each)


cookie batter :

  • 190 grams (1 ½ cups) white all-purpose flour                       
  • 130 grams (¾ cup) fine cornmeal (corn semolina)           
  • 54 grams (6 tbsp) cornstarch           
  • 65 grams (½ cup) icing sugar           
  • 53 grams (¼ cup) white granulated sugar           
  • 233 grams (1 cup) salted butter (or unsalted butter)           
  • optional : 2,5-5 grams (½-1 tsp) sea salt (if using unsalted butter)
  • 7,5 ml (½ tsp) vanilla extract

icing :

  • 15-22 grams (2-3 tbsp) icing sugar
  • 10-15 ml (1 ½-2 tsp) milk (or water)
  • 25 grams (2 tbsp) white granulated sugar (or rock sugar too)


  • melt the butter (add salt if using unsalted butter), let it cool down (but remaining still liquid) and combine with the cornmeal, stirring with a spoon, let the mixture sit and hydrate for at least 30 minutes, then add the granulated sugar and vanilla extract and remix
  • in another bowl combine the finer powders (all-purpose flour, cornstarch and icing sugar) and whisk until mixed
  • prepare/cut the baking/waxed paper for lining your square mold (18 cm x 18 cm or  20 cm x 20 cm but do not brush with melted butter)
  • combine the contents of both bowls of batter ingredients, mix well, press the mixed batter into your mold and flatten out completely and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes until firmer (or even overnight if you’re busy)
  • preheat the oven to 165°C and bake for 30 minutes (rotate after 15 minutes), then remove the baking dish, slice inside the baking mold (in half then in lengths and you can also use a fine skewer and poke 3 holes in each cookie) and place back inside the oven for another 15 minutes until only slightly golden and remove from the oven, turn off the oven but keep the oven door closed
  • let cool down 10 minutes before lifting the block of baked cookies out of the mold, using the baking/waxed paper and then carefully separate the shortbreads into individual cookies (using the flat side of the knife to push them apart) and brush the top surface with the paste of icing sugar and milk and then quickly sprinkle with more granulated sugar (and/or rock sugar)
  • place the shortbreads on a rack and back inside the turned off oven with the door slightly ajar and let the cookies sit there and crisp up for another 60 minutes until the oven and cookies have cooled completely.
  • store in an airtight container for up to 7 days (or freeze for much longer).