Shortbread Cookies…the Finale

My little brother, who by the way is no longer little and who looks alarmingly like my older brother is a man of few words.  He is not the talkative one of the bunch…I’d probably take that crown, as grandpa always said, my mouth was constantly motoring.  However, when James talks he 1) gets his point across and 2) generally makes me giggle.  Today was no different.

This is the text message conversation we had yesterday.

Randomly one evening ….

James: Shortbread Cookies

Me:  OK…can do.

James:  Can you make them taste like Panera’s?  (this came with a picture of a dog)

Me: I don’t know what those taste like…anything special?

James:  Heaven.

Me:  Lol…I’ll go and buy one and check these suckers out.

James: Good idea

Me: OK

and then we talk a bit about Dad’s birthday…omitting because he reads this and is always looking for clues

James:  When are you coming home?

Me:  Tomorrow

James:  OK

Me:  Do you want cookies dipped in chocolate?

James:  NO

Me:  Do they taste of anything, like lemon or orange or anything?

James: No

Me:  Ok, are they crunchy or soft?

James:  In between.

Me: OK

Me:  Hope mine are good.

James:  Just firm enough that when you hold the edge it doesn’t break.

Me:  OK, good description..

And that was that.  His request therefore made it’s way onto my baking To Do List.  It will be the last cookie that will be baked in my oven for the year 2011.  This cookie signifies the end of my ‘Month of Cookies’.  The flour, sugars, baking soda, salt, etc…have been put back in their respective homes, after sitting on my counter for the month.   I am happy to say that, while I love baking cookies, I will not be baking any more cookies for at least a few weeks…I am officially cookied out.

If you are looking for one last cookie to bake or need something quick and fast with few ingredients, then these are your solution!  You can fancy them up a bit by adding roasted pecans or maybe some lemon zest or dip half of the cookie in melted chocolate.  However, at the speed my brother was eating them….they are delicious just as they are.

I am heading home for the Christmas holiday and the anticipation of Christmas morning is starting to stir.  I have the presents packed, Stanley meowing in his carrying case, and all the cookies packed…in the far far far back of the Jeep….and I am on the road.  It is just a short trip, but a road trip none the less.

If you are travelling or staying put, I wish you a safe and joyful Christmas.

Love,

Mal

Shortberad Cookies

Adapted from Martha

Makes 1 dozen

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 2 Sticks Unsalted Butter – room temperature
  • 1/2 Cup Confectioner’s Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

In a small bowl, whisk together flour and salt.  Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter for about 3 minutes or until it is light and fluffy.  Add the confectioner’s sugar and vanilla, beat for an additional 2 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl half way through beating.   Add the flour and salt mixture and beat until the flour is completly incorporated – the dough may be a touch crumbly but will come together when pressed between your fingers.

Empty dough onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a brick.  Wrap in plastic wrap and place in fridge for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 325°F.

When the hour is up, remove from fridge and on a lightly floured surface roll the dough out into a rectangle measuring 12 inches x 6 inches.  ( the dough should be about 1/4 inch thick).  Using a butter knife, cut the dough into squares (2 in. x 2 in.) and then cut the squares on the diaganol, creating triangles.  Or you can use cookie cutters or make whatever shape you like.  Take a fork and poke a few holes into the tops of the cookies.

Place shapes onto ungreased or parchment lined cookie sheet about 1 inch apart and bake for about 12 to 15 minutes, or until the bottoms begin to turn golden.  Remove from oven and let cool slightly on cookie sheet before transferring to wire rack.

Once cool store in airtight container.

Enjoy!

Grown up Lemon Bars

I am going to be 28 in one week….where did my mid-twenties go?  I feel like I fell asleep, woke up and I am instantly in my last 20′s …. when did this happen?  Sorry for all who are reading this to whom I have already confessed this concern to. 

Now, don’t get me as one of those people who will stop celebrating birthdays or start wearing loads of wrinkle cream, etc…I mean birthdays still mean cake and ice cream right?!?  However, that cake and ice cream keep showing up quicker and quicker each year.  With this sudden awareness of how quickly time is moving (ten year high school reunion is this summer…holy moley!!) I have been reminiscing of years gone by.  I sound like I am nearing my golden anniversary instead of my, well what is 30 in 2 years birthday considered?  Anywho, I have been thinking…Scary, I know.

I have been thinking of all the great times spent with friends, many of who are married and are parents (when did we get old enough to have kids?!?), or have moved far away, or just live across town.  I miss them all and enjoy thinking of all the great times we shared.  From late night study sessions to stress relieving parties.  All of which, I highlighted with cakes, cookies, and pies.  (were you wondering how I was going to get this post around to food?)  I quickly learned everyone’s favorite cookies, who prefered brownies to cake, and who didn’t mind eating rice krispie treats straight from the pan while still warm. 

The most frequented dessert in our apartment was lemon bars.  Oh they were good.  Shortbread crust with a sharp sweetened lemon filling.  Very rarely did they even warm completely before we indulged.  Hell, we didn’t even bother with plates…just grabbed a fork and went to town.  With our college budget these treats were $2.99 and from a box.  We didn’t care.  However, now that we are grown up, or trying to grow up, or are just growing, I figured I should try a grown up version of a treat our younger selves loved. 

I first saw these made by Ina Garten and have been meaning to make them ever since.  With spring trying to roll around (middle of May and its hardly 50° outside) and my mind doing numbers on me, I figured now is better than never.

Lemon Bars

adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

Ingredients

Crust (altered version of shortbread)

  • 2 sticks of butter, room temperature
  • 1 Cup white sugar
  • 1 + 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 Cup cornstarch

Filling

  • 1 Cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (≈ 6 lemons)
  • 2 Tablespoon lemon zest (4 to 5 lemons)
  • 1 1/2 Cups white sugar
  • 6 extra large eggs
  • 1 Cup all-purpose flour
  • Confectionary sugar for dusting

 

 Directions

Crust

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and butter a 9 x 13 pan ( I used parchment paper…)
  2. Beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. 
  3. Sift together cornstarch and flour
  4. Slowly add to sugar and butter.  Blend until well mixed and the dough can be gathered into a ball. 
  5. Place dough into prepared pan and press down to make dough fit into pan, about 1/2 inch thick.
  6. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until slightly brown.  Remove from oven and let cool in pan on wire rack while you prepare the filling (don’t sweat if you don’t have one!) Leave oven on. 

Filling

  1. Whisk together lemon zest, lemon juice, eggs, sugar, and flour in a medium bowl.
  2. Pour over crust and bake for 25 – 30 minutes until the filling is set (bake longer if using a smaller pan for a thicker filling). 
  3. Let cool completely (if you can resist) before dusting with confectionary sugar and serving. 

This is wonderfully tangy and full of lemon flavor.  I am hoping to make this in the future with the addition of limoncello (Italian lemon liqueur).  If you would like to make this addition, then I would use 1 to 2 tablespoons.  I am intrigued by how much more lemon flavor this would add.  The crust is rather thick, if a thinner crust is preferred then use 1/2 to 3/4 of shortbread recipe. Next time I make this I think I will use a smaller pan and less crust.  I like a thicker filling and thinner crust, thats just me though!  I hope you enjoy!

 

 

The long and short of it all

  

I have a sweet tooth … a mean mean mean sweet tooth.  I could survive on baked goods, but unfortunately you would have to airlift me out of my house in about 6 months.  For this reason, I do survive on other items from the food pyramid…grudginly so. 

   Flipping through Jamie Oliver’s cookbook, Cook with Jamie (which is wonderful – more on this one in future blogs)  I found several desserts that I am dying to try out.  Reading cookbooks is therapy for my stomach, but, I can only read about main courses and vegetables for so long until I find myself heading towards the desserts.  I can wander among the pages of the dessert section for hours indulging in the ingredients and imagining the smells wafting through my own kitchen.  Hmmm….OK, enough of my rambling about my love of baking … I think I have a crush on flour, sugar, and butter! 

  Anywho…back to where I started.  While flipping through Jamie’s book (first name basis – in my dreams!) I found a recipe for shortbread that claims to be the best in the world, so I had to give it a shot.   When something is claiming to be the best, how can you resist!?! 

Let me tell you, it is amazing with a cup of tea or if your cup of tea is a cup of coffee, then that works too!  This is a fool proof recipe, trust me!  After reading the recipe several times over I still screwed up (or so I thought)!  Ugh….  Amazingly though,  the shortbread turned out great!  Evident by how quickly it disappeared when I brought it home.

So, this mishap caused me to make another batch of shortbread…oh darn!  I used cornstarch again, but this time I used the amount that the recipe actually calls for.  The dough was dryer (naturally) and I ended up using my hands to mix, which brought the dough together.  The hand mixer just made it crumble.  The end result was much the same suprisingly.  The only differences were that the second batch was more flaky,  more crumbly, and my mom thought it didn’t taste as sweet.   I will  stick with the 2/3 C. of corn starch because the dough was much easier to work and came together with ease.  I also liked the taste and texture of the first batch better as did the rest of my family.  So this recipe is an adapted version of Jamie Oliver’s. 

 This is a very simple recipe containing only 4 ingredients, all of which are staples in most pantries.  It is easy to whip up when a sweet treat is needed! 

Ingredients (amended)

  • 2 sticks + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter @ room temperature, plus extra for pan
  • 1/2 C. + 1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
  •  2 Cups all – purpose flour, sifted – don’t pack
  • 2/3 C. cornstarch

 

 

 

 

 

 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F and butter 9 inch pan (round or square works nice)
  2. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy and the color has paled.
  3. In another bowl, sift together the cornstarch and flour.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the sugar and butter mixture and mix to combine. 
  5. Turn out onto a well floured surface and roll dough out to approx. the size of your pan
  6. Carefully transfer your dough to prepared pan.  Lightly press dough into pan with fingers just to make it fit.
  7. Poke dough with fork all over.
  8. Bake in preheated oven for 50 minutes or until golden brown
  9. Once removed from oven and when still warm sprinkle with sugar and don’t be skimpy!
  10. Cut once it has cooled slightly.