Irish Butter and Oat Shortbread Cookies for St. Patrick’s Day

My daughter came home from school yesterday asking me if leprechauns were real and “what do snakes have to do with St. Patrick’s Day anyway?”  I smiled.  I remember how fun it was to look for four-leaf clovers and wonder about tiny men in green suits with a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

I asked her what she thought about leprechauns.  Real, she said.  Her friend saw one named Lilly, the same as her name.  So of course, they are real and so is that pot of gold.
I told her I made round little button shortbread cookies for her that were just like gold coins.  She squealed with excitement.
Back in December, I was shopping at one of my favorite places, Pirate O’s, and they had Kerrygold butter on sale. My husband and I took turns in the store.  It was a few days before Christmas and snowing lightly.  Our kids had fallen asleep in the car and we didn’t want to take them inside the store anyway.  Pirate O’s is magical at Christmastime.  Every kind of imported chocolate and candy you can imagine in addition to their fabulous cheese section.  It’s a small store with narrow aisles and high price tags.  You know how it is with tiny hands and touching everything. :)   I walked out with a pound of Irish butter, a bottle of sparkling Voss from Norway (which is still in my fridge), English clotted cream (my hubby just opened it over the weekend), balsamic vinegar from Italy, and Utah truffles.  A trip around the world in 15 minutes.

I came home and put the butter in my freezer to save for shortbread.  I never made the shortbread for Christmas.  I didn’t make it for New Year’s or Valentine’s Day.  Here it is March, and I’m finally getting around to it.

Worth the wait, I was told.  Definitely worth the wait.

My grandmother and I talk several times a week.  Back in December, after I bought the butter, I called and we talked about shortbread.  She cut out a recipe from the newspaper years and years ago.  She read it to me over the phone and I jotted it down on a scrap of paper.  Then I talked about perfect shortbread with my husband.  He’s kind of a connoisseur of shortbread.

I had the butter.  The recipe already called for some cornstarch.  The key is to NOT whip the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, or you’ll get air pockets, and not to over-mix the dough when you add the flour.  You want tender, melt-in-your-mouth crumbly, sandy textured cookies with intense butter flavor.  The gluten in the wheat flour can make tender cookies tough, so subbing out other flours helps give you that perfect texture.

With it being St. Patrick’s Day and all, I thought I would try adding a little oat flour too.  Oats are low in gluten and when finely ground, help keep the cookies tender and lend a nice nutty flavor.  Also, it’s hard for me to think of oats without thinking of Irish steel-cut oats, our favorite breakfast cereal.

See that lovely texture?

I made little round buttons for the kids.  They are the perfect size for a quick treat.  I managed to save some of the cookies that didn’t disappear, so I could “age” them in a tin in my secret cupboard.  Shortbread gets better as it ages.  Using good butter helps with that, by the way.  Use really good butter when you make shortbread.  You can taste the difference.

Kerrygold butter comes from grass-fed cows and has a higher fat content.  That also makes for the perfect shortbread because less water in the butter means more tender cookies.  The flavor of the butter is also superior.  If you don’t want to splurge on Kerrygold (or if you can’t find it on sale), spring for some Land o’ Lakes.  Go all out for the shortbread.  It’s worth the splurge.

Irish Butter and Oat Shortbread Cookies
adapted from my grandma’s recipe

8 oz. unsalted Irish butter, such as Kerrygold at room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 cup oat flour
2 1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cream butter for 30 seconds in a mixer until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and cream until smooth. (Don’t whip the butter until fluffy, just until combined.) Whisk the dry ingredients together. Add half to the creamed mixture and mix on low just until combined.  Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix on low just until the dough comes together. There will still be some unincorporated dry ingredients. Remove bowl from mixer. Scrape down sides and use a silicone or rubber spatula to gently mix in the remaining dry ingredients.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured, cool surface or a piece of parchment lightly dusted with flour.  (I prefer the parchment, as you can bake the cookies on the same piece and the dough doesn’t stick if you need to transfer it.)  Knead the dough a few times and press lightly into a disk.  (You can chill it at this point, if desired.)  Roll the dough out, using a tiny bit of flour to keep the dough from sticking to the rolling pin, to 1/4″ thick.  Cut into the desired shapes and transfer to the baking sheets.  Dock the top of the cookies with a fork, toothpick, or bamboo skewer.

Alternatively, divide the dough into 4 pieces and shape into flat rounds.  Use a sharp knife to cut into wedges
Dock the wedges evenly fork, toothpick or skewer.

Bake the cookies one cookie sheet at a time, rotating it halfway through baking time.  For the 2″ circles bake for 15 minutes, or until barely brown.  For the larger circles cut into wedges, bake for 20-25 minutes.

I got 1 circle with 8 wedges and about 4 dozen 2″ rounds from one recipe.

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  1. Looks yum! I don’t know if it is because we are close to the distribution – but Land o’ Lakes butter is usually the cheapest here. Bonus. Just a funny thought.

  2. I’ve been dreaming about shortbread with kerrygold butter for weeks now. I may just have to make some this weekend!

    Love those little buttons!

  3. How did you make the tiny buttons? They’re adorable! Shortbread is one of the best things in the whole wide world as far as I’m concerned. Definitely trying this recipe!

  4. @Katrina and Emily–Thank you!

    @Sarah–totally jealous. We stock up when it’s on sale here.

    @Becky–we love Kerrygold. :)

    @Lori–I just used a small, round biscuit cutter and then used the blunt end of a skewer to make the holes.

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