Monday, April 6, 2009

Shortbread - oh, yeah!

I make an amazing shortbread, even if I say so myself. Actually, someone has nicknamed my shortbread as “crack” because she can’t leave it alone. If how little of it returning home after a get-together is any indication, she’s right.

Basic Shortbread Recipe

1 lb of unsalted butter

1-1/4 cup of confectioner’s sugar (or caster’s sugar) – do not use granulated

4 cups of flour

¼ teaspoon of salt (optional – I often leave it out)

Cream together the sugar and butter until the butter is light and airy. Do not over-cream. Mix in the flour. I usually use a stand mixer, so I add it in ½ cup increments to keep my kitchen from being flour-coated.

Put in to 9-inch cake pans or a 13-inch baking dish. I’ve been using an 8-inch and 10-inch springform pan. Bake at 325° for 25-30 minutes. The edges should just be beginning to turn brown. I often decorate with colored sugar or decorator’s gel before I bake it.

I was researching the history of shortbread, trying to figure out the origins of modern shortbread. I came across several recipes that had a variety of spices in the mix, so I decided to experiment.

After making my base shortbread recipe, I divided the batch into four pieces.

  1. I left this piece plain as a comparison piece.
  2. I added ½ teaspoon of freshly grated cinnamon, ½ teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg, and ½ teaspoon of coriander (I would have used fresh, but only had powdered). Just a note about grating cinnamon — don’t grate along the edge, grate along the side.
  3. I added ¼ teaspoon of cardamom, gently crushed.
  4. I added ½ teaspoon of crushed, dried rosehips.

I decorated it and baked it as usual for a get-together of people who have never had my shortbread. Everyone liked all the variants of it, but especially the cinnamon/nutmeg/coriander.

  1. The plain shortbread is a wonderful creamy, sweet treat. I’ve often been tempted to add fresh vanilla and see what that does.
  2. The cinnamon/nutmeg/coriander version was nicely spiced with a warm earthy flavor. I thought it was very comforting and Christmas-y, but that was really just me. I really ought to try it with each of the spices separately and with aniseed.
  3. The cardamom gave a nice, aromatic, lemon-like tone to the shortbread. I should have crushed it up a bit finer and used a half teaspoon. The cardamom provided a nice, sweet refreshment to the mouth. I’d like to serve this between courses of a meal as a palate cleanser. After trying this, I am actually considering a trial using the zest of lemons, lime, and oranges.
  4. The rosehips didn’t quite do what I expected. Sometimes the rosehips were a little hard and chewy; I should have crushed it up bit finer. I liked the citrus notes, but the floral tones were more subtle than I expected. This might be remedied by using more rosehips (like 1 teaspoon), but I also might try it with my rosehip butter. The honey will make it a little challenging but the flavor should be amazing.

1 comment:

tastetraveller said...

Shortbread is such a wonderful example of how simple ingredients can create a complex taste. I'll have to try the lemon zest. Frankly, I'm thrilled to see a recipe for shortbread when it's not Advent (all cookies have been Christmas cookies for me).