Making basic shortbread
Stir together the butter, sugar and vanilla extract. Line one or two baking trays with baking paper. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer with paddle attachment, add the butter, sugar and cream on medium speed for about 2 to 3 minutes until pale and light. Scrape half way up the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the vanilla extract and mix again.
Add flour and beat them together. Sift the flour and add the salt and mix on low speed until combined and the dough begins to come together. The dough will look rather sloppy, but you’ll know it’s done when it starts to clean the sides of the bowl and start to clump in the center.
Use your hands to squeeze the shortbread dough into a mass. Shape it into a rough disk.
Roll out the shortbread dough. Roll out on a lightly floured surface to ½ cm (¼ inch) thickness.
Note: If the dough is too soft at this point, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 10-15 minutes or more until it sets slightly and is easier to roll out. Keep an eye on it as if the dough is too hard, it will crack if you try to roll it out.
Cut out cookie cutters and let cool. Once the dough is rolled out, use a cookie cutter (I used a heart-shaped one) to stamp out the cookies. Place the cutouts on the prepared baking sheet. Bring all the leftovers together, roll out again and mash out more cookies. And then do it again if necessary. Keep in mind that each time you reshape the dough, it will pull the flour in from the worktop and therefore allow the dough to dry out. In that case, add a few drops of water to the dough. Try not to make the dough too heavy by kneading it. Gently press it together each time.
Now refrigerate the stamped cookies for at least 30 minutes or until the cutouts have hardened. As a result, the butter has solidified again and you have the best chance that the cookies will keep their shape in the oven.
Baking. Preheat the oven to 170°C (335°F) while the cutouts are cooling. Remove the cookies from the refrigerator and bake for 10-12 minutes or until just golden brown around the edges. Let them cool on the baking sheet for ten minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.