Spicy Cheddar Shortbread


No junk food snack comes close to these easy savory cookies, a perfect finger food.
TIME 45 to 60 minutes
MAKES 30 to 40 cookies
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold butter, plus more for greasing the pan
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cayenne


Method
1 Heat the oven to 400°F. Cut the stick of butter into chunks. Grease a baking sheet with more butter. Put all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse several times; as soon as the mixture resembles coarse meal, stop. Turn the dough onto a sheet of plastic, wrap it, and press it gently into a ball. Refrigerate the dough for at least 20 minutes or up to several hours.

2 Pinch off heaping tablespoon-sized pieces of the dough and roll them into 1-inch balls with your hands. Put the balls on the prepared pan, leaving 2 inches between them. Press down on each ball with your fingers to flatten it to ¾ inch thick. If there is dough left over when the sheet is filled, wait and cook a second batch.

3 Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the shortbreads are puffed and golden brown. When they’re cool enough to handle, transfer them to a wire rack and bake the remaining dough. Serve right away or store covered at room temperature for up to 1 day.

Variations
  • Spicy Cheddar Shortbread by Hand: Put all the ingredients in a large bowl and stir and mash them together with your fingers or a fork until they become moist and crumbly, then press the dough together into a ball, wrap it in plastic, and continue with the recipe from Step 2.
  • Other Cheeses for Shortbread: Try Gruy√®re, Emmental, manchego, or another semihard melting cheese instead of the cheddar. Parmesan works well too.
  • Cumin-Scented Cheese Shortbread: Skip the cayenne and add 1 tablespoon ground cumin.

Tips
  • Refrigerating makes the dough easier to handle and shape, but if you’re in a real hurry, stick it in the freezer for 10 minutes or so.

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