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Do Shortbread Cookies Need to Be Refrigerated?

Do Shortbread Cookies Need to Be Refrigerated?

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You’re on a mission to create buttery shortbread cookies, but then you encounter a hiccup. The recipe says you should leave your dough in the fridge for a few hours!

Why do shortbread cookies need to be refrigerated?

It looks like an unnecessary step, but cookie science proves otherwise. In this article, we’ll uncover how refrigeration can help you bake the best shortbread cookies!

Do You Have to Refrigerate Shortbread Dough?

The short answer is yes. Refrigerating the shortbread dough will allow you to churn cookies with a better shape, texture, and flavor.

Ideal shortbread cookies are crumbly and flaky. If you don’t refrigerate the dough, you may end up with a chewy texture instead.

Here are some reasons why you should take the time to refrigerate your dough.

1 – Cold Butter Prevents Gluten Development

Butter is everything when it comes to cookies.

It’s vital to keep the butter in your dough cold while you’re baking because it affects the structure of your product.

Chilled butter coats flour particles in a process called “shortening”. It acts as a barrier that prevents natural gluten in the flour from developing.

How Chilling Prevents Gluten from Developing in Shortbread Cookies

Once you get it wet and start kneading it, pure gluten develops into what we can only describe as a rubber ball.

Sure, it’s necessary for making elastic bread dough or chewy noodles. However, biting into a rubbery cookie sounds like a nightmare.

The secret to deliciously crumbly cookies is preventing gluten development. To do this, you need to keep your dough cold.

If the butter in your dough melts, its water and fat emulsion separate. The water then gets absorbed into the flour, which will develop gluten.

2 – Chilled Dough Has Better Lamination

Another reason why you should keep your dough cold is lamination. Lamination happens when layers of butter remain solid within the dough.

As you bake the cookie, steam in the dough releases. Once the steam gets trapped between chunks of fat, it’ll rise in a way that forms pockets within the cookie.

The result of these pockets is a flaky crumb!

How Refrigeration Affects Lamination

Refrigeration helps the butter to solidify within your dough. It’ll take longer for the cold pieces of butter to melt in an oven compared to the room-temperature dough.

Because of this, you give your cookies more time to resist the heat and form layers while baking.

Room-temperature dough, on the other hand, has smaller fat particles because of the melted butter within it. In this case, you end up with a dense and chewy texture.

3 – It’s Easier to Handle Cold Dough

Since it takes longer for the cold dough to melt, you get more handling time.

Shortbread cookie recipes often instruct you to form the dough into logs and chill it in the fridge. After a few hours, you take the log out and slice it into disks before baking.

You may even roll the dough out and punch in unique shapes with a cookie cutter. This is impossible with room-temperature dough, which will stick to your hands and tools!

Why You Get Better Shapes With Chilled Dough

If you keep your dough refrigerated just before baking, you get rewarded with cookies with sharp edges and defined outlines.

It’s because cold dough holds its shape.

Simply put, it won’t melt into a soggy unidentifiable mass in the oven. This is great for making shortbread cookies that you can decorate with royal icing!

4 – You Get More Delicious Cookies

Leaving cookie dough in the fridge has another surprising advantage. That is, flavors blend and develop over time.

The liquid in the dough redistributes and the flour gets hydrated. It’ll let your cookie caramelize and brown more evenly.

In addition, this step allows for some of the moisture to evaporate. Refrigeration concentrates the ingredients in your shortbread, and you’re left with a more intense taste.

However, when you do this, you should wrap your dough with cling wrap. If you leave it for too long in the fridge, you risk overdrying your cookies.

5 – The Shortbread Rises With a Finer Crumb

Have you ever tried whipping melted butter? If so, then you might find that it can’t hold air bubbles as much as chilled butter.

These bubbles are the key to making light and airy cookies.

Some shortbread cookie recipes won’t ask you to add a leavening agent like baking powder. It’s because baking powder might cause your cookie to over-rise and lose its shape.

In this case, you’ll have to rely on the natural air bubbles you formed within your dough. The good news is the colder the dough, the more stable the air bubbles.

In short, it’s a good idea to refrigerate your shortbread cookies!

Final Thoughts

Why do shortbread cookies need to be refrigerated?

The simple answer is that doing so will let you make better-textured cookies. Refrigeration also affects flavor and it’ll help you produce more defined shapes.

In conclusion, it might be worth waiting a few hours before you pop your cookies into the oven!

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