1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, at cool room temperature
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract, optional, or the flavor of your choice; eggnog flavor makes a delicious holiday shortbread
2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1) Preheat the oven to 300°F. Lightly grease two round 9" cake pans. If you worry about the shortbread possibly sticking in your particular pans, line them with parchment, and grease the parchment.
2) In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, vanilla, and almond extract, then beat in the flour. The mixture may seem a little dry at first; keep beating till it comes together. If it absolutely won't come together, dribble in up to 1 tablespoon of water, until it does. This is a stiff dough.
3) Divide the dough in half, and press each half into one of the prepared pans, smoothing the surface with your fingers, or with a mini rolling pin.
4) Use a fork to prick the dough all over; this allows any steam to escape, and prevents the shortbread from bubbling as it bakes. Prick the dough in a random pattern, but it looks nicer pricked with some kind of symmetry.
5) Bake the shortbread until it's a light golden brown across the top surface, and a deeper golden brown around the edges, about 35 minutes.
6) Remove it from the oven, and immediately turn each shortbread round out onto a clean work surface.
7) Using a pizza wheel or sharp knife, cut each round into 12 wedges. (Do this while the shortbread is still warm; if you wait until it's cool, it won't cut easily.) Transfer the shortbread wedges to a rack to cool.
8) Serve as is, or decorate. Here are a few suggestions: Drizzle with melted caramel; Spread with melted chocolate, and sprinkle with nuts; Set aside two shortbread cookies, and spread the remainder of the cookies with a thick layer of jam or preserves. Crumble the reserved cookies, and sprinkle the crumbs lightly over the jam.