When she left Sweden to join her fiancée and get married in Minnesota, it never occurred to Margit Schott that she was carrying in her hands the knowledge that would allow her to teach her two children and five grandchildren about her homeland: a masterful touch with Swedish shortbread.
Her delicate cookies would also earn her respect, if not awe, in the Swedish community in the Twin Cities.
“Everyone asks if there is a secret and there is not one, says Schott. "We learned to bake in school. And for some reason, I liked this cookie so well that I perfected it. I say, ‘The only secret to baking good Swedish shortbread is to bake Swedish shortbread for 65 years.’”
These tiny, delicate cookies are lovely to look at and impossible to resist. As with all butter cookies, care must be taken to work quickly and not handle the dough very much. It is helpful to chill the dough for an hour in the refrigerator before shaping and baking.
1 cup unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the baking sheet
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 to 2 1/2 cups flour
1 small jar good-quality seedless raspberry jam
1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons almond extract
3 teaspoons water
1. Beat the butter, granulated sugar, and salt together in a bowl until light and fluffy. Sprinkle about a third of the flour over the butter mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold the flour into the butter with a few quick strokes. Repeat until all the flour is used. Cover with plastic and chill for at least 1 hour.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the lid of the jam jar and place the jar in a small saucepan. Add water to come half-way up the sides of the jar and place over low heat until the jam is warm and slightly melted.
3. Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Roll each out into a strip, then cut strips that are about 2 inches wide and about the length of your baking sheets. Transfer the strips to greased baking sheets.
4. Use the tip of a wooden spoon handle to press a thin canal down the center of each strip. Carefully spoon the jam into this hollow, being careful not to fill the indentation completely or it will overflow. Bake until dried and just browned on the bottom, about 10 minutes.
5. In a small bowl, stir together the powdered sugar, almond extract, and the water until smooth. As soon the cookies come out of the oven, drizzle the glaze across the strips. While still warm, use a sharp knife to cut the strips diagonally into slender bars. Transfer the bars to a rack to cool.
Makes 60 to 70 cookies.