An Armenian shortbread cookie made with clarified butter.

Clarifying the butter will make it taste less buttery by removing the milk solids that provide some of the flavor. Other than that, I don’t see a great deal of upside here to clarified butter, particularly since you can’t actually “cream” clarified butter and sugar.

The purpose of creaming butter and sugar is mechanical–the edges of sugar crystals cut air pockets into the solid butter, which are then made to rise in the oven, either on their own or with baking powder. Non-hydrogenated oils, like clarified butter, don’t have the consistency to hold air pockets. (Even if you refrigerated it, it’d be a little like trying to beat air into a melting ice cube.)

The only thing this could be doing here is breaking down the sugar further, which you could do just as easily by using powdered sugar in the first place.

So if you don’t mind the more pronounced butter flavor, mixing 1-3/4 cups of powdered sugar and about two sticks plus three tablespoons of whole butter butter should work. If you want the lighter, more authentic flavor, mixing that volume of powdered sugar to clarified butter would at least save the creaming step. Or you could use a combination of powdered and granulated to cut the mixing time.

So why use clarified butter at all? Well, similar cookies are made in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and India. It’s possible the original recipe was Indian and this instruction was carried with it.

coverFrom a stapled collection of recipes from my preschool, c. 1982, in University Heights, Ohio.


Armenian Cookies

This is the Armenian version of shortbread.

1/2 pound sweet butter (2 sticks)
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour

Clarify the butter as follows: melt the butter over low flame, then set in the refrigerator until it is cool. Remove the foam from the top of the saucepan. Discard the water in the bottom of the saucepan and use only the hardened butter in the middle. This middle section is the clarified butter.

Cream the butter and the sugar until it is fluffy and light. Gradually add the flour, kneading the mixture until it is well blended and stops clinging to your fingers.

Take a small portion about the size of a walnut, roll it into an oval shape, place it on a baking sheet, turning it into a crescent shape. [Diagram]

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

Makes about 30 cookies.

Jeanette Meinick

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