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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Buttery, crisp shortbread

I made these shortbread cookies this week when it was our turn to host our church group. The recipes are from a great little book, Shortbread, 30 sweet+savory recipes, by Jann Johnson. Both flavors were great, but I have a weakness for chocolate shortbread that just sort of melts in your mouth. So does my friend Brenda, who was loving enough not to curse me for making them. To ensure that melt-in-your-mouth experience, use real butter. It makes a difference in shortbread.

Mexican Chocolate Shortbread

10 tbsp. (1 stick plus 2 tbsp.) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
3 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup finely chopped almonds (optional)
1 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Lightly butter or spray an 8-inch round pan, preferably one with a removable bottom, or use an ungreased or parchment-lined baking sheet.

In a medium bowl, with an electric mixer on low speed or with a wooden spoon, beat the butter till light in color, about 1 minute. Mix in the brown sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, salt and extracts, and continue beating till mixture is smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Gradually mix in the flour and almonds, if using, until just combined.

Press the dough evenly into the pan or pat into an 8-inch circle on baking sheet and flute or score the edges. Prick the dough attractively with a fork.

Bake in the center of the oven for 45 minutes (start checking at 30!) or till just set and firm to a light touch. Place pan on a wire rack and let cool completely. Transfer shortbread from pan to a cutting board and cut into 12 wedges (or smaller squares) with a sharp, thin knife.

Note: If you omit the nuts, use 1/4 cup additional flour.

Java-Honey Shortbread

1 tbsp. instant coffee granules
1 tsp. hot water
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
Pinch cinnamon
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup honey

In a medium bowl, dissolved the instant coffee in the hot water. In a medium bowl, with an electric mixer on low speed or a wooden spoon, add the butter and beat until light in color, about 1 minute. Mix in the brown sugar, salt,and cinnamon and beat until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Gradually mix in the flour until just combined.

Divide the dough in half and roll each portion into a 5-inc-long log. Cover with wax paper or plastic wrap and chill until firm, at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Slice the dough 1/4-inch thick and place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Press with a cookie stamp or pierce with fork.

Bake in center of oven for 12 to 15 minutes (Start checking at 8 minutes), or till firm to a light touch. Let cookies cool.

In a small saucepan, heat honey to boiling and cook JUST until honey begins to darken (if it gets too dark it will be bitter). Immediately remove from heat. Be careful; honey will be very hot. Let it cool a bit and brush warm honey over each cookie. It will dry to a shiny, slightly tacky finish. High humidity will cause stickiness. Don't stack the cookies.

Makes about 40.

Note: Cookie dough also can be rolled out to 1/4-inch thick, cut with hexagonal cutters, and stamped.

1 comment:

Brenda said...

I am the aforementioned Brenda (the ultimate compliment to be mentioned on my friend's blog) and I can definitely attest to the yummy goodness of the chocolate shortbread and the sweetness of the cook!!!!