Elli's Christmas Shortbread
1 pound (4 sticks) salted butter, room temperature
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar (optional)
Grease and flour (or use nonstick spray) a 15- by 10-inch jelly-roll pan and set aside. Using hands to mix, cream softened butter, brown sugar and vanilla until creamy. Slowly add in flour, mixing well until completely blended. (Using a mixer is not recommended because it introduces too much air into the dough.)
Turn dough out onto the prepared pan. With well-floured hands, work mixture evenly over the surface. When spread evenly, if you wish, you can sift up to 2 tablespoons of brown sugar over the top. Prick spread dough generously with floured tines of a fork.
Bake at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes until light in color. Cut into 2-inch squares while still hot and allow to cool in pan. (It will firm up as it cools.) When completely cool, lift out the squares and store in a tightly sealed container.
Times testing notes: We tested this recipe as it was written, mixing the ingredients by hand. However, a bit of research on shortbread didn't turn up any recipes made this way. We suspect that's how Ellen Bess' mother made the cookies and so that's how she does it. It's a perfectly fine to use a wooden spoon or other sturdy utensil.
Yield: At least 40.
Freezeworthy: Yes, but cool completely first.
Submitted by Ellen Bess, Brandon