Recipe: Rye Shortbreads with Red Ale Glaze

December 17, 2018

By Ben Mims, December 17, 2018

The light bitterness and amber color of a red ale was the inspiration for these shortbread wedges. The rye flour in the cookie base compliments their beer’s earthy notes, which are, in turn, balanced by the sweet glaze that gets drizzled on top. Made in the traditional Scottish method, the dough here is baked in a round cake pan then scored into wedges after baking, which makes it an easy cookie to bake and take to a party in one pan. Because the red ale, when reduced to such a small amount, darkens noticeably in color, the shade of the glaze is equally as gloomy—the red food coloring is optional, but offers the requisite festive color to match their flavor.


1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups rye flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 cups red ale (one 12-ounce bottle)

2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

10 drops red food coloring (optional)

Red sanding sugar, to garnish


1. Heat the oven to 325°F. Grease the bottom of two 8-inch round cake pans with butter then line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, rye flour, and salt. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed of a mixer until light and fluffy, 5 to 7 minutes. Slowly add the dry ingredients and beat on low until the dough just comes together. Use a rubber spatula to stir in any remaining trace amounts of flour.

3. Scoop the dough onto a work surface, form into a rough ball and split the ball in half. Transfer each half to a prepared pan, cover with a sheet of plastic wrap, and use your hands to press it gently into the bottom to form an even layer. Remove the plastic and cut each dough disk with a sharp knife into 16 wedges.

4. Bake, rotating the pans from front to back halfway through, until light golden brown at the edges, 60 to 70 minutes. Let dough disks cool in the pans for 5 minutes.

5. Carefully invert the disks onto your hand then gently place, right side up, on a cutting board. Re-cut the wedges along the previous cuts then reassemble the disks on a wire rack so their cut edges are touching again. Let the cookies cool completely.

6. Meanwhile, pour the beer into a small saucepan, and bring to a boil over high heat (see *Note). Cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the confectioners’ sugar, salt, and red food coloring, if using, until smooth.

Note: Beer foams up wildly when it first starts to boil. Avoid stirring the beer until the foam subsides on its own, after about 4 minutes, or else you run the risk of the foam bubbling over the side of the pot. You can either skim off the foam from the bubbling beer or not; it doesn’t make a difference in the final taste of the beer in the cookie.

7. Aiming for the center, pour half of the warm glaze (about TK cup) over each disk of shortbread so that it spreads out to and over the edges. Sprinkle the shortbreads with the sanding sugar, then let stand until the glaze sets, about 10 minutes.

Makes 32 cookies

Baking with beer tip: Because cookies are a notoriously low-moisture genre of baked goods, it’s difficult to fit a beer’s-worth of flavor into them. Unlike liquor or flavor extracts, beer is mostly water, so to concentrate its flavor, it needs to be reduced down to a very small amount. For all these recipes, you will need to reduce a standard 12-ounce beer, which is 1 1/2 cups liquid, down to 1/2 to 1/4 cup, depending on the recipe. And even in this concentrated form, the flavor of the beer might still not be noticable if just baked into the dough of a cookie, so you’ll see that I use the beer in the glazes and fillings that top each cookie to keep the beer aroma and flavor physically near your nose as you bite into each cookie, so you’re aware of it first thing.

Also, obviously, beer is bitter and cookies are sweet. To help counteract any imbalance of flavors in these cookies that can happen by adding such a highly concentrated dose of bitterness, I use finishing/decorating sugars for all these cookies. They not only make the final cookies look better, but add another layer of raw sugar sweetness that works with these pleasantly bitter cookies. Look for them at baking supply stores in your area or  

Photo by Liz Clayman.

ZX Ventures, a division within AB InBev, is an investor in October
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