zaterdag 27 oktober 2007

Italian shortbread

Looking for something new to bake, as usual, I asked the ladies and gents at the Fine Cooking forum what they were baking. Heather mentioned an Italian shortbread she had tried and liked a lot. She was also kind enough to share the recipe, and I'm doing that here as well:

Italian Shortbread with Almonds and Jam
Desserts: Mediterranean Flavors, California Style
by Cindy Mushet

Yield – 6 – 8 servings

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup apricot jam or other not-too-sweet jam (I used strained raspberry jam)
1/3 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and set the rack in the middle of the oven. Have ready a 9-inch ungreased fluted springform pan. (I used a 4” by 13” tart pan with removeable bottom)

Beat the butter and sugar on medium speed in a stand mixer for 3 to 4 minutes until very light, scraping down the sides of the bowl and the paddle from time to time. Add the almond extract and beat on medium speed for 30 more seconds to blend.

In a small bowl whisk the flour and salt together. Add to the butter mixture and beat on low speed to combine, just until the dough is thoroughly blended, 30 to 40 seconds. The dough will be stiff. Remove 1/2 cup of dough and spread it on a small plate in a thin layer; place it in the freezer.

Press the remaining dough into the pan evenly – it can be a little higher at the edges, but the center shouldn’t be elevated. Spread the jam evenly over the dough to within an inch of the edge. Retrieve the remaining dough from the freezer and crumble it over the jam. Sprinkle the almonds evenly over the top.

Bake the shortbread for 40 to 50 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a rack before removing from pan.

Cut the shortbread into serving sized triangles. (Can be frozen)

Despite the fact that I have made more cookies than I can ever recall or count, I haven't made much shortbread. I always thought it somewhat boring, with just the butter, sugar and flour, and ventured more into the -studded with nuts, chocolate and everything else you can imagine- category.
I am so glad I tried this one though. It is very simple to prepare, and just very delicious and interesting with the jam and almonds. This recipe made my top ten of favorite cookie recipes easily, and I know I'll be making it often from now on.
I was looking for a rectangular pan to bake it in (like Heather did) and had to increase my ingredients because I didn't have a small enough one. It was no problem at all. I bet you could easily double the recipe too, and freeze part of the cookies (Heather said they freeze beautifully) so you always have something nice at hand for unexpected occasions.
I used store bought cassis jelly, just because that sounded good and it definately was a great choice. But I'm sure this would be nice with any not overly sweet kind of jam (I have some homemade blackberry jam left that I think would be marvelous too). Just another picture in case more convincing is needed for trying this one:

Edited to add that Heather recommends to freeze the cookie as a whole, and only cut them after thawing. I can see how that would help prevent them from drying out. Thanks Heather!

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