1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
1–1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme or 1 heaping teaspoonful dried thyme
8 ounces extra-sharp white Cheddar cheese, finely shredded
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon Rain’s Choice Vanilla Extract
In a medium-sized bowl blend flour with grated cheese using a whisk.
In a separate mixing bowl, add butter and blend until smooth with a fork, then add salt, black pepper, herbs and cayenne, if using, and blend until fully incorporated. Fold in the cheese-flour and blend into the butter and spices using a fork just until mixture is incorporated and smooth (do not overmix). Add vanilla, blend in, scraping down the side of the bowl with a silicone or rubber spatula. Shape the dough into disk, wrap in waxed paper, and chill at least 30 minutes or overnight.
Arrange racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat to 350°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4- to 1/8-inch-thick round. Using 1 1/2- to 2-inch round cutter, cut out rounds and arrange 1-1/2 inches apart on baking sheets. Reroll scraps if desired (rerolled scraps will be tougher).
Bake shortbread until lightly golden and beginning to brown on edges, about 13 to 15 minutes. Cool on sheets 5 – 10 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely.
Store in an air-tight container if not using immediately. Warm in a 250 degree oven for 10 minutes before serving.