Cranberry shortbread squares

Since it is the season, we’re giving it up for the Cran Man for the next couple of weeks.

As everyone knows, cranberries are delicious.  Especially when they are jellied or sauced.  Despite this established fact, when I started to think about it, I realized  I’ve done very little baking with them.  Which, is sort of a slap on the forehead considering the little ruby orbs of tartness are filled with tons of pectin making them ideal for filling things.

And I can’t forget to mention just how strangely satisfying it is to combine them with a little water, sugar,  heat and hear them quietly pop and squeak as they cook.

These bars are a take on the more traditional raspberry or apricot bars with an interesting twist on preparing the shortbread.

Like some short breads, the dough is combined until it just comes together.  Then it goes into the freezer for at least an hour.

While the dough freezes, you bust out the food processor and affix the shredding tool.

The frozen dough is then fed through the processor so that the result is basically dough confetti.  If you can get past the part where it really does look like something that belongs on a taco, this hack is brilliant.  By shredding the dough rather than rolling, it remains tender, crumbly and of course, buttery.

Once the base is pressed into the pan, it is topped with a generous slathering of cranberry sauce.  The whole shebang is then finished with the other half of the dough shreds.

The result is delightful.  And festive.  And exactly what we all need.

Cranberry Shortbread Squares

from Southern Living

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 C fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1/4 C water
  • 1 C granulated sugar, divided
  • 3/4 C salted butter, softened, plus more for greasing pan
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 C all-purpose flour

Directions

  1. Bring cranberries, water, and 1/4 cup of the sugar to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high. Cook, stirring and smashing berries occasionally, until mixture thickens, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat, and cool completely.
  2. Beat butter, salt, and remaining 3/4 cup sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add egg yolks and vanilla; beat on low speed until combined. Add flour to butter mixture; beat on low speed until combined.
  3. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface; knead until dough comes together, 3 to 4 times. Shape into a 14-inch-long log. Cover with plastic wrap, and freeze at least 1 hour or overnight.
  4. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, allowing paper to extend past edges of pan. Grease paper.
  5. Remove plastic wrap from dough log; cut in half crosswise, and cut each piece in half lengthwise. Feed dough log quarters through the chute of a food processor fitted with a shredding blade. Press half of grated dough into the bottom of prepared pan. Spread cranberry mixture over 1 dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Top with remaining half of grated dough, pressing to seal edges.
    Bake in preheated oven until firm and golden brown, 33 to 35 minutes. Cool in pan. Lift cranberry shortbread from pan using parchment as handles; cut into rectangles; then cut into triangles.

Caramel slice

Ah the caramel slice, or, in Misanthropic Hostessland, the baked good formerly known as JB Bars.

Way back when I first encountered these, I thought the middle was a penuche, or brown sugar fudge. While I’m a fan of the penuche variation, the mana-like substance that makes up the middle layer of this variation is actually a caramel made of sweetened condensed milk.

Think dulce de leche.

Ah!  Now I have your attention.

In this take on the treat, the shortbread base includes coconut.  If you haven’t already clued-in,  coconut is like the Australian version of Frank’s Hot Sauce.  They put that s*&t in just about everything.

But back to the caramel.  In this version, sweetened condensed milk is heated along with some butter and golden syrup (also in everything Australian) until everything is combined.  Then it is baked on top of the shortbread base until it looks like Deadpool without the mask.  Trust me, though it be ugly, it’ll taste exactly like you imagine Ryan Reynolds tastes.

I had a tough time getting this part just right.  I went through four iterations before I was brave enough to leave it in the oven long enough to let it set up.

Once cooled, the unsightly caramel gets a gorgeous layer of chocolate.

The recipe below makes a 9X9 inch square.  It won’t seem like enough–but –cut these into 1X1ish inch squares.  The term decadent could take a lesson from these bad boys.

Store them in the fridge.  However, they’re safe at room temp (they’ll just loosen up a little…kind of like I do when thinking about what Ryan Reynolds smells like).

Speaking of Ryan Reynolds–TD and I saw the most recent Deadpool movie in Australia.  Guess what?  Not the least bit different from going to the movies in the U.S.

Caramel Slice

Recipe cobbled together from several.  Read through before you start baking!

Ingredients

for the shortbread base

  • 1 C (150G) all purpose flour
  • ½ C (40G) desiccated or shredded and chopped coconut
  • 1/2 C (about 125G) unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ C (90G) golden brown sugar

for the caramel

  • 1/2 C (about 125G) unsalted butter
  • 2 X 395G cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/3 C (115G) golden syrup (light corn syrup will work)

topping

  • 1/2 C (200g) semisweet chocolate, chopped or chips
  • TBS vegetable oil

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line 9X9 pan with parchment going both ways so that there is 2 inches overhanging the lip of the pan all the way around (see photo above).  Oil parchment
  2. Sift flour into a medium sized bowl.
  3. Add-in coconut butter and brown sugar until everything is just combined (dough will be very soft and moist–it won’t feel like shortbread)
  4. Press dough into prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes until golden on top.
  5. While base is cooking, melt butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan on very low heat.
  6. Stir-in milk and golden syrup.  Bring heat up to low-medium and stir for 8 minutes until mixture is slightly thickened (the difference is subtle).
  7. Once shortbread base is out of the oven, pour caramel over.  Return to oven and bake for at least 30 minutes.  The top should be golden and while it will still have some jiggle, it shouldn’t be liquid.  Err on the side of over-done here.
  8. Refrigerate until completely cool.
  9. Melt chocolate and vegetable oil together.  Pour over chilled caramel.
  10. Refrigerate until set-up (ideally at least a couple of hours)
  11. Cut into 1 inch slices (you’ll be tempted to go bigger but these are very rich).
  12.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge.
  13. Will keep up to 5 days.

Ina’s Jam Thumbprints…with a twist

As you know, I like to vary my holiday baking from year to year.  Each year there are the “they’d kill me if I didn’t make these.”  These are your rum butter nuts, schweddy balls (chocolate peanut butter bon bons) and sugar cookies.  Then there are the newbies–always at least one or two.  The newbies aspire to be tried and true.  Sometimes they advance, like the World Peace addition from a couple of years ago.  Sometimes they see a single season and then are never heard from again–like last year’s white chocolate and pink peppercorn sables.  Finally, there are the rotators.  These guys come in an out every few years depending on the whim of the baker and which way the wind happens to be blowing.  Or something like that.   Baklava, toffee and jam thumbprints among others fall into this category.

Always a personal favorite of mine, jam thumbprints were asked back to the dance this year after a three or four year absence.  They’re festive looking and a nice fruity and nutty balance to the chocolate goodies.  They can also be a pain to make.

In recalling where this recipe came from, I realized that jam thumbprints might just be my introduction to Ina Garten.  I was home from college for the holidays and while polishing the silver or making name cards (tasks which I’ve only recently realized were designed to keep me out of trouble), my mom turned on a show hosted by a lady with nicely manicured hands and a ridiculous house in the Hamptons.  In the episode she made a batch of jam thumbprints, wrapped them up in little glassine bags tied with ribbons then hopped in her Mercedes, hand delivering to friends along the way.

The whole thing seemed so contrived.  And yet.  I wanted to wrap up cookies in cute bags, jump in my German luxury vehicle and drive among the mid-winter dunes delivering cookies like a WASPy socialite santa.

But back to the fact that jam thumbprints are tedious.

The original recipe asks the baker to make the dough, chill it, shape individual balls, roll them in egg wash, roll them in coconut, make thumb indentations, fill with jam and then, finally, bake.  Not awful, but I found that since these are a fairly crumbly shortbread cookie, the rolling and printing after the dough was cold could be problematic.  Often, the dough would crack…and a cracked vessel will not hold its treasure.  And, the egg wash was messy.

So I played with the process a bit in the name of mass production and came up with a technique that streamlines the rolling and dipping and such.

In this little twist, the dough is made and then immediately shaped, rolled in coconut (no need for egg wash), indented and then chilled.  Then, when it’s time to bake all that needs to be done is to fill with jam and into the oven.  No cracks and because the dough is still cold when it goes in, they keep their shape a little better.

Did I take pictures of this?  Of course not.  Why would I do that?  It isn’t like all of this was going to go in a visually driven blog.

You’re just going to have to take my word for it.

Ina’s Jam Thumbprint Cookies

methodological twist provided by TMH

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
  • 7 ounces sweetened flaked coconut
  • Raspberry and/or apricot jam


Directions

  1. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until they are just combined and then add the vanilla.
  2. Separately, sift together the flour and salt.
  3. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar. Mix until the dough starts to come together.
  4. Roll the dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. (If you have a scale they should each weigh 1 ounce.)
  5. Once balls are rolled, roll each in coconut.  Then, go back through and press a light indentation into the top of each with you finger.
  6. Arrange closely on a cookie sheet, wrap loosely and chill for at least 30 minutes.
  7. Place the balls on an ungreased cookie sheet with at least 1 inch in between. Drop 1/4 teaspoon of jam into each indentation.
  8. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the coconut is a golden brown.

 

 

Tartine’s Shortbread

I’ve lost count of the number of shortbread and sable recipes palling around on the Misanthropic Hostess.

I think shortbread has become my holy grail. Such a simple cookie.  And, probably because of this, so easy to get “not quite right.”

This recipe comes from the first Tartine cookbook.  I bought the book for the famed bakery’s laminated dough recipe.  But, like a moth to the flame, this, not their croissants was the first recipe I tried.

And, it does not disappoint. It’s crisp yet tender, light yet sings of butter.   In fact, of all the recipes I’ve tried over the years, this one comes the closest to, what I’m beginning to suspect is an imagined shortbread ideal.

Shortbread

Tartine

Ingredients

  • 1 C + 1 TBS (9 oz, 255 g) unsalted high-quality butter, very soft
  • 1/2 tsp (2 ml) salt (TMH uses kosher)
  • 1 3/4 + 2 TBS (9 oz, 255 g) all purpose flour
  • 1/2 C + 2TBS (2 2/3 oz, 75g) cornstarch
  • 1/3 C (2 1/2 oz, 70g) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 C superfine or granulated sugar for topping

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Butter a 6X10 or 8X8 glass baking dish.
  2. Place butter (should be the consistency of mayonnaise) in a mixing bowl.  Add-in salt and mix well with a wooden spoon.
  3. Add granulated sugar until just combined.
  4. Sift-in flour and cornstarch.  Mix only until a smooth dough forms.
  5. Pat the dough evenly into the prepped baking dish.
  6. Bake until the top and bottom are light brown, about 30 minutes though it took about 40 in my oven.
  7. Let cool on a wire rack just until the shortbread is warm.  Do not allow to cool completely.
  8. Sprinkle the shortbread with superfine sugar.  Tilt the dish so that the sugar coats the entire surface evenly, top out the excess sugar.
  9. With a thin, sharp knife, cut shortbread into fingers or squares.
  10. Chill completely before removing the squares from the pan.
  11. Will keep in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

 

Any excuse

While gathering inspiration for ways to rid my house of Nutella, I came across an absolutely lovely blog called The Cake Merchant. Oboist by profession, baker by passion, this author’s gorgeous photography and creative verve for desserts quickly pulled me in.

Of course, out of all the fancy and colorful creations she highlighted, the brown sugar and cinnamon shortbread caught my eye first.  As you know, I’m always looking for excuses to make shortbread and sable cookies.  And, reading the ingredients for a brown sugar and cinnamon variety had be wondering, “why did I think of that?”

Simple and elegant, what sets these cookies apart is a sprinkling of turbinado sugar that has been doused in cinnamon.

Like cinnamon toast, only a smidge more refined.

While the smell of cinnamon rising from the kitchen on a May morning felt a little bit anachronistic,  these would be a happy treat on a cool fall afternoon with a cup of tea.

 Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Shortbread

adapted from The Cake Merchant

Ingredients

  • 1/4 C turbinado sugar
  • 1 TBS ground cinnamon
  • 1 C (2 sticks) unsalted temp, at room temp but still cool to the touch
  • 1/2 C packed golden or light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 1/4 C all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, combine turbinado sugar and first tablespoon of cinnamon.  Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift in flour then whisk-in salt and cinnamon.  Set aside.
  3. Using a standing or electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  4. Reduce speed to low, and add-in flour, mixing until just combined.
  5. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface and work slightly until dough comes together.
  6. Divide dough in half and roll each half into a log (I like to use the cardboard round from paper-towels, split length-wise to help hold shape).  Wrap tightly in plastic and either refrigerate for an hour or freeze.
  7. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  8. Slice logs into 1/3-1/2 inch rounds (depending on desired thickness).  Please on cookie sheet and sprinkle with turbinado and cinnamon mixture.  Press down just slightly so as not to change the shape of the dough, but help the sugar stay in place (you could also brush the cookies with an egg-wash first, then sprinkle the sugar if you didn’t want to press the sugar into the dough).
  9. Bake for 18-20 minutes if using from fridge, add-one 3 minutes or so if from frozen.  The cookies should be golden brown on top but not around the edges.
  10. Cool on wire racks.  These will freeze well if tightly wrapped.

The pink peppercorn rides again

In the course of my holiday baking each year, I like to make a couple of different kinds of shortbready-sably type cookies.  And each year, I like to try out something a little different.

This year, by different, I meant really different.  As in, peppercorny different.  In fact, I think that’s where it started.  At some point during my planning, TD always asks the same question: “you aren’t going make anything pink peppercorny are you?”

Why yes, yes I am.

If you don’t know about TD and pink peppercorns, you can catch up here.  A couple of years ago I had some success with raspberry and pink peppercorn macarons so I thought it might be fun to translate that into a sable.

I added in some white chocolate chunks and accessorized with bright pink sanding sugar for a little pizzazz (yes, I just said pizzazz).

The results were interesting.  While not for everyone, I thought they were a complex, if not festive addition.

Raspberry, White Chocolate and Pink Peppercorn Sables

a play on Dorie Greenspan’s sable cookie

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, preferably sea salt
  • 2 large egg yolks, preferably at room temperature
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp ground pink peppercorns (I use a coffee grinder)
  • 3 heaping TBS freeze dried raspberry powder (I find freeze dried fruit at Trader Joes.  You can also find it on Amazon.  I also used the coffee grinder to pulverize the raspberries)
  • 8 ounces white chocolate chunks
  • Sanding sugar if you want to get fancy

Directions

Working with a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until it is smooth and very creamy. Add the sugars and salt and continue to beat until smooth and velvety, not fluffy and airy, about 1 minute. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in 2 egg yolks, again beating until well blended.

Turn off the mixer, pour in the flour, raspberry and pink peppercorn powders.  Drape a kitchen towel over the mixer and pulse the mixer about 5 times at low speed for 1 or 2 seconds each time. Take a peek; if there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple of more times; if not, remove the towel. Continuing at low speed, stir for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough and the dough looks uniformly moist. If you still have some flour on the bottom of the bowl, stop mixing and use a rubber spatula to work the rest of it into the dough. (The dough will not come together in a ball — and it shouldn’t. You want to work the dough as little as possible. What you’re aiming for is a soft, moist, clumpy dough. When pinched, it should feel a little like Play-Doh.)

3. Scrape the dough onto a work surface, gather it into a ball and divide it in half. Shape each piece into a smooth log about 9 inches long (it’s easiest to work on a piece of plastic wrap and use the plastic to help form the log). Wrap the logs well and chill them for at least 2 hours. The dough may be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.

4. When ready to bake, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper and keep it at the ready.

6. Place the rounds on the baking sheet, leaving an inch of space between each cookie, and bake for 17 to 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet at the halfway point. When properly baked, the cookies will be light brown on the bottom, lightly golden around the edges and pale on top. Let the cookies rest 1 or 2 minutes before carefully lifting them onto a cooling rack with a wide metal spatula. Repeat with the remaining log of dough. (Make sure the sheet is cool before baking each batch.)

 

JB Bars

JP, this one’s for you.

Since traveling to Australia is sort of like going to the U.S. from a size perspective, we chose to visit three cities: Melbourne, Sydney and Port Douglass (an hour outside of Cairns).

In each of the three cities, a delightful little petit-four like cookie was served alongside coffee for a taste of something sweet at the end of meals.

The little treats started with a shortbread base.  To which a layer of penuche, or brown sugar fudge was added.

The squares were topped by a layer of chocolate.

These are kind of like million dollar shortbread.  Only not.

Once we got home I spent some time trying to find a name for these little guys.  No luck.

So, TD and I decided to name them ourselves.

While in Sydney, we met up with our friend Julia (and Jennifer and Myra).  They were there leading a group of college students and while it’s a sad state of affairs to have to go halfway around the world to spend time with someone who lives less than 10 miles away, good fun was had by all.  Some of that fun was the discussion, debate and general admiration of a certain footie player from the Sydney Swans.

Australian rules football is fantastic.  TD and I caught a Sunday game in Melbourne (at the historical MCG) between the Richmond Tigers and the Carlton Blues.  It was a crisp afternoon in early fall with huge clouds and a cool breeze.  Beer, meat pies with tomato sauce and some very….athletic athletes.  It doesn’t get much better.

Australians are fervent sports fans and on their island nation, the Sydney Swans are royalty.

Their crowned prince?  That certain footie player, Jude Bolton.  A prolific athlete–315 games in his 14 year career thus far–Mr. Bolton is, according to JP, also an ace bloke.   Dear readers, meet Jude.

Photo source: Phil Hillyard / News Limited via FoxSports.

By now you’ve figured it out.  JB Bars are short for Jude Bolton bars.  Because, we like him that much.

As for the Sydney Swans…well…Australia seems to have a knack for using American fight songs as their own.  The Sydney Swans fight song is set to the tune of the Notre Dame fight song.  Make what you will of that little nugget.

If you like this, you might like these.

Salted Caramel Squares

Twix Bars

JB Bars

penuche layer adapted from Stephanie Stiavetti at www.theculinarylife.com everything else is Misanthropic Hostess

Shortbread Base

Ingredients

  • 10 TBS butter, cold
  • 1/4 C brown sugar
  • 1/8 C granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 C flour
  • 1/8 C salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 235 degrees.
  2. Line an 8X8 or 9X9 pan with parchment so that pieces hang off the end on all four sides.
  3. In a food processor, pulse together sugars, flour and salt.
  4. Cut butter into 1/2 TBS pieces.  Using pulse function on the processor, add-in pieces one-at-a-time until the dough just barely comes together.
  5. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  6. Press dough into pan.
  7. Prick dough all over with fork.
  8. Bake on middle rack until golden brown (20-30 minutes…begin checking at 20 minutes or when you  begin to smell the butter cooking).
  9. Remove from over and allow to cool completely.

Penuche & Chocolate Layers

Ingredients
  • 2½ cups brown sugar
  • 2½ cups white sugar
  • 1¼ cup whole milk or half and half
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 8-12 ounces chopped chocolate (I used bittersweet) depending on how thick you’d like the layer.  I used about 9 ounces.

Directions

  1. In a heavy saucepan over medium-low flame, heat brown sugar, white sugar, milk, butter, and salt to 236F while stirring constantly. This should take 20-25 minutes.
  2. Pour penuche into the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium for 2-4 minutes, or until fudge is thick and smooth. Lower speed to low and add vanilla extract.
  3. Using a spatula greased with butter, spread penuche fudge on top of shortbread base, smoothing out the top. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. While the penuche is cooling, melt chocolate in a double boiler or in microwave (50% power, 30 seconds at a time, stirring in-between until chocolate is melted and smooth).
  5. Spread chocolate evenly over penuche layer using an offset spatula.  Allow to harden.
  6. Lift entire concoction from pan using the ends of the parchment.  Cut into 1-inch squares.
  7. Serve or use within two or three days.  Will keep slightly longer if stored in an air-tight container.  Do not refrigerate.

 

The shortbread experiment continues

A while back, I experimented with a Thomas Keller shortbread recipe.  As a note in the recipe, he casually throws out a slight alteration for chocolate shortbread.  I couldn’t resist.

The substitution is simple–just replace some of the flour with high quality dutch-processed cocoa.

Because I can’t leave well enough alone, I also added the zest of an orange to the dough.

Then I iced each little square with a simple concoction of confectioner’s sugar and blood orange juice.

These were really intense.  And, in my opinion, better than the original shortbread recipe.

If you like this, you might like these

Chocolate Cayenne Cookies

Wold Peace Cookies

Soundtrack

Carol King

Shortbread

adapted from Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel in Bouchon Bakery

Ingredients

  • 13 TBS (1 stick + 5 TBS) (180 grams) unsalted butter at room temp
  • 1/2 C (90 grams) superfine sugar
  • 1/2 + 1/8 tsp (2 grams) kosher salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4  all purpose flour
  • 3/4 C unsweetened alkalized cocoa powder
  • zest from 1 large orange (optional)

Directions

  1. Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Cream until smooth on medium-low speed.
  2. Mix-in zest.
  3. Add 1/2 C (90 grams) sugar and the slat, mix on medium for about 2 minutes until fluffy.
  4. Scrape down the  sides and bottom of the bowl.  Add the vanilla and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds to distribute evenly.
  5. Add the flour and cocoa in two additions, mixing on low speed for 15-30 seconds or until just combined.  Scrape the bottom of the bowl to incorporate any flour that may have settled.
  6. Mound the dough on the work surface and, using the heel of your hand or a pastry scraper, push it together into a 5-inch square block.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, until firm.
  7. Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees.  Line two pans with parchment paper.
  8. Unwrap the dough and place between two pieces parchment paper.  With a rolling pin, pound the top of the dough working from left to right to begin to flatten it.  Turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat.
  9. Roll-out to a 9 inch square.  If the dough has softened, slide it (still inside the parchment) onto the back of a sheet pan and refrigerate until firm again.
  10. Using a chef’s knife, cut the dough as desired.  The original recipe calls for 3 cuts horizontally and 5 cuts vertically so that you have 24 2 1/4X 1 1/2 inch pieces.
  11. Dust the tops of the dough with sugar and arrange on baking sheets leaving 3/4 inch in between each.
  12. Bake until pale golden brown, 17-19 minutes.  Set the pans on a cooling rack and cool for 5 to 10 minutes, transfer the cookies to the rack to cool completely.

For icing

  • If you would like to ice the cookies, begin with 1 cup of confectioner’s sugar, whisk in orange juice or water 1 TBS at-a-time until the icing is of desired consistency.  Dip cookies and allow icing to dry.

The shortbread experiment

I have made no secret of my love for sandy, crumbly cookies.  Sables, sandies and shortbreads all tickle my fancy as an enjoyer of baked goods, if not as a baker.  I am always on the hunt for the perfect shortbread recipe and constantly in awe that something with so few ingredients can prove so elusive (though I suspect it is because of the simple ingredients).

So of course, I had to try the one included in Bouchon Bakery (I really didn’t intent two weeks in a row from the same book).

Butter, flour, sugar. Check.

Crumbly dough, check.

Time in the fridge, check.

And here is where he started to lose me.  I realize it is a personal preference, but rolling-out shortbread isn’t my thing.  I prefer to press or roll the dough into a log.

Admittedly, I rolled them out too thinly.  And while the result had a nice crumbly texture, they tasted a little too sugar-cookie to me.  TD said they tasted like shortbread.  But, he’s not a huge fan of the buttery baked good so he only gets a half vote.

 

If you like this, you might like these

Coconut Shortbread

Sables

Shortbread

adapted from Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel in Bouchon Bakery

Ingredients

  • 13 TBS (1 stick + 5 TBS) (180 grams) unsalted butter at room temp
  • 1/2 C (90 grams) superfine sugar
  • 1/2 + 1/8 tsp (2 grams) kosher salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 C + 3 TBS (270 grams) all purpose flour
  • granulated or sanding sugar for dusting

Directions

  1. Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Cream until smooth on medium-low speed.
  2. Add 1/2 C (90 grams) sugar and the slat, mix on medium for about 2 minutes until fluffy.
  3. Scrape down the  sides and bottom of the bowl.  Add the vanilla and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds to distribute evenly.
  4. Add the flour in two additions, mixing on low speed for 15-30 seconds or until just combined.  Scrape the bottom of the bowl to incorporate any flour that may have settled.
  5. Mound the dough on the work surface and, using the heel of your hand or a pastry scraper, push it together into a 5-inch square block.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, until firm.
  6. Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees.  Line two pans with parchment paper.
  7. Unwrap the dough and place between two pieces parchment paper.  With a rolling pin, pound the top of the dough working from left to right to begin to flatten it.  Turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat.
  8. Roll-out to a 9 inch square.  If the dough has softened, slide it (still inside the parchment) onto the back of a sheet pan and refrigerate until firm again.
  9. Using a chef’s knife, cut the dough as desired.  The original recipe calls for 3 cuts horizontally and 5 cuts vertically so that you have 24 2 1/4X 1 1/2 inch pieces.
  10. Dust the tops of the dough with sugar and arrange on baking sheets leaving 3/4 inch in between each.
  11. Bake until pale golden brown, 17-19 minutes.  Set the pans on a cooling rack and cool for 5 to 10 minutes, transfer the cookies to the rack to cool completely.

 

When the hipsters are right

In a town full of hipsters, I am decidedly not.  I don’t have a cool fedora or any tatoos.  The last time we went out in Hollywood, TD and I were home by 10:30 (uhm, P.M.).  I think cocount water tastes like spit.  Despite the fact that I love Jud Apatow and think Lena Dunham is talented,  every time I watch  Girls all I can think is, ‘good gravy, just wash your hair…all of you’.  Well, maybe that last one just means I’m old.  I don’t Tweet because I am so not interesting enough.  So yeah, if hipsters are cool, I’m pretty much the opposite. 

We do share one thing in common, the cool kids and me: food.   One of my favorite hipstery places is Huckleberry in Santa Monica.  Despite its hipsteriness (or maybe because of it), I dig the whole vibe.  So of course, I want to emulate it.  And now I have and you can too because a couple of years ago Zoe Nathan (she of Huckleberry creation) published her recipe for salted caramel squares in Food & Wine

It starts with a shortbread base (see…I was trying to be all hipster and instagrahmy with the artsy fartsy picture).

So that the shortbread does not puff, the recipe instructs it be weighed-down with pie weights.  I use beans to the same end.

Be sure to line the unbaked cookie with parchment before adding the weights.  I’ve done it the other way.  More than once.  Not good.

While the shortbread browns, it’s time to get down to the business of making caramel.  Two pots: one with cream and vanilla bean, the other with sugar and just enough water to make you doubt whether the whole thing will work.

But it will.

This is a two-step process.  After the sugar reaches a certain temp, the cream is added and then brought up to a final soft-ball stage.  The last step: salt (they call for kosher, I used fleur de sel).

The finished caramel is poured over the golden shortbread.  And then, into the fridge.  For what seems like an interminable about of time.

This is what was going on in the other room while I was making the caramel.  Despite our lack of, ney, anti-hipster household, we have made the jump to the new iPads.  In my App downloading glee, I somehow procured a game for cats.  Yeah, I know.  In the game a life-like mouse skitters across the screen and if you “catch-it” it squeeks.  I showed it to the Kitchen Gods one time.  That’s all it took.  Now, no matter where they are in the house, if I turn on the game (it has little mouse squeeks in the background), they come running.  In fact, they only have to see the iPad to come running.   Suddenly, everything thing from Flipboard to Words with Friends is a cat game.  Nice.

Oh yeah, we were making something weren’t we?  Okay, once the caramel has set, the entire slab gets pulled-out by the overhanging edges of parchment.  Then cut. 

I have to admit, if standing in line ease-dropping on all of the hipster conversations wasn’t so much fun, I’d proclaim that I no longer needed Huckleberry.  Because these?  Are legit.

Soundtrack

Elliott Smith.  Kind of introspective for making molten-hot caramel sauce, but what do you do?

Salted Caramel Squares

Zoe Nathan as published in Food & Wine July 2010.

Ingredients

Pastry Shell

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg white, beaten

Caramel

  • 2 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on the short sides.
  2. In a large bowl, using a handheld mixer at low speed, cream the butter. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar. Add the whole eggs and beat until incorporated, then beat in the flour and salt. Press the pastry into the prepared pan in an even layer, 1/4 inch thick. Freeze until firm, 10 minutes.
  3. Line the pastry with parchment paper and fill with pie weights. Bake for 35 minutes, until just set. Carefully remove the pie weights and parchment. Brush the shell with the egg white and bake for 20 minutes longer, until golden and cooked through. Let cool.
  4. In a saucepan, bring the cream, vanilla bean and seeds to a simmer. Cover; keep warm.
  5. In a large, heavy saucepan, stir the sugar into 1/4 cup of water. Simmer over moderate heat, without stirring, until a deep amber caramel forms, 7 minutes.
  6. Remove the caramel from the heat and carefully add the cream. When the bubbling subsides, stir in the butter. Insert a candy thermometer and cook over moderately high heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the caramel reaches 240°, 10 minutes. Discard the vanilla bean and stir in the salt. Pour the caramel over the shell. Refrigerate until firm, 4 hours or overnight; bring to room temperature. Remove the bar from the pan using the parchment overhang; cut into squares.
  7. TMH note: these will keep well for a few days in the fridge.  While solid, the caramel will soften and attempt to slip over the sides of the squares if left at room temp.