hearst castle shortbread cookie

I was busy searching for a pure vanilla cake or cookie in Singapore. This search started off from having tried a cupcake that uses real vanilla beans. But the amount of vanilla bean used was, as expected, very little. The fragrance of the vanilla was barely discernable. My determination to taste a cake or cookie made from real vanilla bean was sparked off. 

However, no matter how hard I looked, there seemed to be none who baked cakes or cookies using real vanilla beans. I know the beans are expensive and that must be the reason few cake shops will make pure vanilla products. So I decided to bake myself.

When I saw this recipe on the net from 101cookbooks, I knew I had to try.

Source: http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/hearst-castle-shortbread-cookies-recipe.html


  • 512 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 454 grams unsalted butter
  • 128 grams confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon real vanilla extract
  • 1 vanilla bean (though optional, my opinion is please use..)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. (I think you can preheat the oven when the dough is chilling in the refridgerator.)
  2. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl and put aside.
  3. In a mixing bowl beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and beat again, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice as you are mixing.
  4. Beat in the vanilla extract. If using a vanilla bean, slit it open along its entire length, scrape out the vanilla bean paste from the interior of the bean and add this to the mixer.
  5. Add the flour in 2 additions. Stir until everything comes together in a thick dough.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a countertop and divide into two pieces. Press each piece of dough out into a flat patty an inch thick.
  7. Wrap each piece in plastic and chill completely in the refridgerator. This takes about 30 minutes. When the dough is chilled, use a rolling pin to roll the dough out 1/4-1/2 inch thick. Cut the dough into desired shapes using cookie cutters or a knife and place on a parchment (or Silpat) lined baking sheet.
  8. Bake 7-10 minutes or until the bottoms of the cookies are barely golden.
  9. Makes 3-4 dozen tiny cookies depending on the size of your cutters.

My finished product:

My notes:

Living in Singapore where the weather is very humid and warm most times, I had to be careful that I did not over-handle the dough. I froze half a batch by double-wrapping in food wrap and then 1 layer of aluminium foil before bagging it in a Ziploc bag and sticking in the freezer. When I baked the second batch, I found the cookies had more cracks in them than the first batch I made. I can only guess I must have over-handled the dough or my crazy oven is acting up again. Anyway I used the french butter Elle & Vire to make this and it was divine.


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