High Country Baking: Stars and stripes shortbread

Stars and stripes shortbread is sure to be the centerpiece of any Fourth of July festivities.
Vera Dawson/Courtesy photo

High altitudes make cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.

This shortbread has Fourth of July written all over it. Fun, festive, enjoyed by both kids and adults — it’s perfect for a casual outdoor meal. Plus, it’s easy to make, transport, and serve, letting you relax and enjoy the holiday activities along with your family and friends. The shortbread’s appeal is due to its simplicity. A buttery, vanilla crust (made tender and crumbly by the addition of cornstarch) cradles a layer of sweet raspberry preserves showered with stars made from the same delicate dough. With so few ingredients, it’s critical to the cookie’s success that you use good ones: fresh unsalted butter, real vanilla and the best jam you can find. Those ingredients account for all the taste. To get the lovely, light texture, handle the dough gently and don’t overwork it.

If you’re transporting the shortbread, leave it in the pan covered with plastic wrap or foil until you reach your destination. If possible, keep it cool so the preserves don’t warm up and get runny. You can prepare the shortbread the day before serving it, store it covered in the refrigerator or at cool room temperature.

Stars and Stripes Shortbread

Make in a 9 inch by 13 inch shiny metal baking pan with low sides.

This recipe works at any elevation.


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar, preferably superfine, plus additional for sprinkling on cookies
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 16 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 generous teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/3 (approximately) cups seedless raspberry preserves
  • 1 egg yolk mixed with a teaspoon of water

Get ready: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees with a rack in the center position. Line the baking pan with Reynold’s nonstick release foil or with regular foil, extending it several inches past the long sides of the pan to use as handles when removing the baked shortbread. Grease any exposed parts of the pan and the regular foil with a baking spray that contains flour.

Make dough: To make in a food processor: Combine the flour, cornstarch, granulated sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the ingredients are fully combined. Cut the butter into sixteen pieces and add them, along with the vanilla, to the bowl. Process until the dough is uniformly moistened and forms big curds. There should be no dry ingredients visible at the bottom of the bowl. Stop before the dough forms a smooth dough or a ball.

To make with a mixer: Let the butter come to room temperature and cream it, with the sugar, salt and vanilla until light. Add the flour and cornstarch and beat until combined.

Add dough to the pan: Turn the dough out onto a sheet of waxed paper and gently press it together into a rough disc. Cut it into two pieces, one slightly larger (about three-fifths of the dough) than the other. Pat the smaller piece into a disc, wrap it in the waxed paper, and refrigerate it until it is firm enough to roll. Break the remaining dough into pieces and scatter them all over the bottom of the prepared pan. Smooth and press them into the pan (doing this through a piece of plastic wrap speeds up the process) until they form a level crust. If the dough has softened, place it in the refrigerator to firm up.

Add preserves: Spoon the raspberry preserves into a bowl and stir until they are a spreadable consistency. If necessary, warm them briefly in the microwave (they shouldn’t get hot; only warm enough to spread). Spread them evenly over the crust. Refrigerate, lightly covered.

Make star cut-outs: Remove the disc of dough from the refrigerator, place it between two sheets of waxed paper and roll to a uniform thickness of about one-eighth of an inch. Using star cookie cutters (I used three varied sizes), cut out as many stars as possible. If the dough gets soft, slip it on a baking sheet and freeze it for several minutes until it’s easy to work with. Remove the pan from the refrigerator and randomly place the stars on the raspberry jam. Re-roll the dough and repeat. Make as many stars as possible; the more stars, the better the shortbread looks. Carefully glaze the stars with the egg yolk-water mixture and top each with a sprinkle of granulated sugar.

Bake and cool: Bake until the stars turn golden and the preserves bubble. Start checking after the shortbread has been in the oven for 33 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack to cool completely. Use the foil handles to lift the shortbread from the pan before cutting it into squares.

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