Real shortbread should be delicious, slightly crumbly, and fairly thick. I recommend making these cookies with the best butter you can buy. I like tying them with red ribbons as Valentine’s gift for special people. In my early days of teaching cooking, I used to bake them, tie red ribbons in them, and deliver to all my boyfriends — the men who supplied the fish, poultry, meat and vegetables for my cooking classes.
Place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mash with a wooden spoon until soft. Then, beat with the paddle of the mixer until very soft.
Add the sugar gradually and continue beating until light and fluffy. Beat in the flour, one cup at a time. Add the vanilla and salt.
Pat the dough onto a cookie sheet about 3/8 inch thick, cut into heart shapes, and lift away scraps. Press the scraps together and cut more hearts.
Bore a hole in the top of each heart with a drinking straw (or a small knife), and bake in a preheated 275 degree oven for 1 hour, or until pale and golden, not brown.
Be careful if using a convection oven because they will bake in half the time.
Tie a ribbon into the hole.
Makes about 24