Chocolate-Peppermint Shortbread Cookies

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For anyone with Scots background, shortbread is the Christmas cookie. In whatever “shape or form”, to quote my Dad, it might come.  It also happens to be my  very favorite cookie of any season and you can find it on the blog in a few incarnations... The endless variations are a large part of its intrinsic attraction for this baker:

Raspberry Shortbread Sandwich Cookies and Valrhona Chocolate Shortbreads with Sea Salt:

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Ina Fridays –Desserts and "Other" Recipes — Eli Zabar’s Shortbread Cookies Three Ways

Tiny, fluted, showered in sugar:  “Sparkly, Very Sparkly Stars”
Raspberry Sandwich Cookies
Dipped in Vahlrona chocolate and topped with fleur de sel

These cookies are always on all my cookie trays in one version or another.  Each shortbread cookie is made from the same recipe, but is simply finished differently.  The recipe is Eli Zabar’s  (NYC) and I took it straight from Ina Garten, who I guess took it straight from Eli, who, it appears got it from his mother!  My cookies, however, are quite different than Ina’s.  Your cookies will be something else as well.  And while these are not terribly innovative or cutting edge, they are terribly delicious.  Addictive, in fact.  Just add coffee.  Just add tea.  Just add sherry.  Just add…you.

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Sparkly, Very Sparkly Stars

More Time will be on vacation for a short time.  
When I’ve cooked a bunch more, I’ll be back! 
In the meantime, make my Sparkly cookies.   Make merry, friends!

Sparkly, Very Sparkly Stars

This not-too-sweet, pie crust-like, melt in your mouth gem is actually a tiny, fluted piece of shortbread showered in white sanding sugar.  Regular old white sugar will work just as well, as would bright red cookie sugar from the grocery store.  The white sanding sugar, however, gives the cookies a sheen and a sophisticated sparkle unlike any other.  It yells, “I‘m special.”

While other cookies try and steal the show with great globs of frosting or hunks of high-quality chocolate, this cookie (tiny, but mighty) shows strength and endurance because after you put out a big bowl of them, folks will just keep nipping in until they’re gone.  One isn’t enough.  Especially with hot tea… or a little snifter of brandy. Try this:
  

 Sparkly, Very Sparkly Stars

3/4# soft unsalted butter
1 c white sugar
1 t vanilla extract
3 1/2 c unbleached flour
1/4 t salt (no salt if you used salted butter)

Mix together together the butter and the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until just combined.  Add vanilla.  Sift the flour and salt and add it to the butter an d sugar.  Mix until the dough starts to come together.  Dump on a floured board and shape into a flat disc. Refrigerate, tightly wrapped, for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 F. 

Roll dough out 1/4″   thick on a floured surface and cut with 1 – 1.5″   fluted cookie/biscuit cutter.   Sprinkle each cookie with a little white sanding sugar and, using one finger, press sugar very lightly into each cookie.  Bake on an ungreased sheet for about 10 minutes–until edges show the faintest signs of gold.  Let cool to room temperature.

The original recipe for this shortbread is from Ina Garten and she got it from Eli Zabar.  I make a couple of other cookies out of this same dough–actually I make hundreds of other cookies out of it!
While the dough operates similarly to sugar cookies, it only has to chill 30 minutes and the taste and texture are intensely better…unless, of course, you make your grandma’s sugar cookies–in which case, I know they’re much better.  Really.

Recipes here for the cookies below:

Valhrona-Sea Salt Shortbreads
Raspberry Shortbread Sandwich Cookies

  

Sing a new song, 
Alyce

Are you done baking yet, Mom?

A Valentine-Strawberry Hazelnut Shortbread Tart or He Let His People Go, but "my" Church is in Trouble

In the background, the blare of MSNBC

“Egypt IS free.”

Gives new meaning to, actually puts on the other foot… “Let my people go,” doesn’t it?

The long term fallout and where the sparks thrown by the revolution will land are questions to which we have no answer.  But the far-reaching waves are now on the way.

Think of other revolutions and their impact and the trail they left.   Think China.  Think France.  Think The United States.  I can’t fathom the legacy of this…

At the same time, my denomination, PCUSA (Presbyterian Church, USA), is on the verge of a long-coming crisis as a  letter, signed by 45 pastors (all male but one), pretty much proposes a number of our churches splitting off from the denomination.  There’s to be a meeting in August in Minneapolis and we’re invited to talk things over.  But, it also says our church is dying and other hard, cold part-truths. (I have to ask how much this pales compared to what’s happening in Egypt…)

While I’m familiar with the problems of my church (a treacherous phrase), one of which is a disagreement over ordination standards ( mostly homosexual ordination), there are some other points of difficulty, one of which is a disagreement over the denomination owning buildings and properties.   This makes me wonder what is the critical point here.

You can read a well-thought out and well-written response…

Here is Rev. Margaret Aymer’s response...http://mayog.posterous.com/about-your-invitation-an-exegetical-rsvp-to-t.

As Christians, we are already so split up all over the world.   I think there are more than 30,000 denominations.   If we keep splintering off, we’ll just be left with splinters.

Church of the Beloved’s “Hope for a Tree Cut Down,” contains a song (“Peace”)  with the lyrics:

We need each other more than we need to agree.

I also freely admit I’ve worshiped with the UCC for the past two years, with the exception of several months in an ecumenical church where I worked as a choir director.

 Did you come for food?!!! 
 

It’s just about Valentine’s Day and this is the perfect, simple dessert for your sweetie.  I can never figure out what to give Dave for any gift-giving occasion, but he’s always thrilled with a dessert; that’s his gift every year.  Sometimes I ask him what he wants and he tells me.  Other times, he says, “Surprise me.”  This was a surprise.  I let him cut a piece after lunch; it’s his tart.  Ok, this could go a few ways; let’s not go there.


If you’re interested in what kind of wine to have for Valentine’s Day, read this from the Wall Street Journal.
 

Add a little raspberry sorbet


Strawberry Hazelnut Shortbread Tart serves 6-8

Original Recipe from THE SPLENDID TABLE’S HOW TO EAT SUPPER by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift; I’ve changed several things to suit my pantry.

  • Zest of 1 Cutie (clementine) or 1/2 an orange
  • 1/4 whole or chopped hazelnuts
  • 3/4 c unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • Generous pinch of salt
  • 6 T cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 chunks
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 t vanilla extract
  • 2t fresh lemon juice 
  • 3/4 c strawberry jam 
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Add cutie zest and hazelnuts to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Pulse several times until ground finely.  Add flour, sugar, salt, butter, egg yolk and vanilla extract.
  3. Pulse until the pastry dough comes together.  Turn out into a buttered 9″ cake or tart pan. (I used a Corning Ware quiche pan; you need to lower heat to 375 F for glass or Corning Ware.) 
  4. Press pastry dough evenly into pan, pushing it up the sides about 1/2″.  Don’t worry if it looks ragged.
  5. Place in preheated oven for 12 minutes or so until it just begins to brown.
  6. Meantime, mix well the lemon juice and jam.
  7. Remove the browned tart shell from the oven and spread jam mixture evenly over the crust.  Increase oven heat to 500F and put tart back in the oven for 4-6 minutes until jam is bubbling.   Do not wait until the oven has reached 500; put it right in. Careful, jam (high sugar content) burns easily.
  8. Remove from oven and let cool a bit on a rack.
  9. Don’t slice hot, but warm (or cold) is fine.   Slice into wedges or squares.
Tucker just a year ago. 

 
Happy Valentine’s Day,
Alyce

Raspberry Shortbread Sandwiches and Valrhona Chocolate Shortbreads


Merry Christmas, Friends, Family and other Loved Ones

A promise is a promise and here are two more of the cookies from the tray:

 These cookies are at the right of the tray and are both shortbread cookies made from the same recipe, but finished differently.  The recipe is Eli Zabar’s  (NYC) and I took it straight from Ina Garten.  Just the end results are totally different.  And while these are not terribly innovative, they are terribly delicious.  Addictive, in fact.  Go ahead; you still have time to bake.  No?  How about for New Year’s?  Truthfully, the 12 days of Christmas haven’t even begun yet.  Get out those trays and crank up that oven.  Take a batch to a neighbor you wish you knew better or run up to the local church for services tonight and give a batch to one of the musicians.  Like me.  I’m working tonight. 



Shortbread Cookies from Eli Zabar via Ina Garten and Alyce Morgan

3/4# soft unsalted butter
1 c white sugar
1 t vanilla extract
3 1/2 c unbleached flour
1/4 t salt (no salt if you used salted butter)


For sandwich cookies:  3/4 c seedless raspberry jam and 1T Cointreau
For chocolate dips:  3-6 oz Valrhona Chocolate melted*; 1T coarse sea salt

Instructions:

Mix together together the butter and the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until just combined.  Add vanilla.  Sift the flour and salt and add it to the butter an d sugar.  Mix until the dough starts to come together.  Dump on a floured board and shape into a flat disc. Refrigerate, tightly wrapped, for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Roll dough out 1/4″   thick on a floured surface and cut with 1 1/2- 2″   fluted cookie/biscuit cutter.  Bake on an ungreased sheet for about 10 minutes–until edges show the faintest signs of gold.  Let cool to room temperature.


For Raspberry Shortbread Sandwiches:


Mix jam with Cointreau and heat briefly; stir well.  Turn cookies flat side up and, holding one, place about 1/2 t jam mixture on it.  Place another cookie, flat side down into the jam mixture and press together lightly.  Place  cookies on racks as you finish them.  When all are done, dust with confectioner’s sugar shaken from the shaker or through a small strainer/sieve.


For Valrhona Chocolate Shortbreads:


Chop or grate chocolate into a small sauce pan.  Place sauce pan over  another with an inch or so of simmering water.  Let chocolate melt slowly.  When melted, take each cookie and dip halfway.  Place each dipped cookie onto a wax paper lined tray to dry.  Place a piece or two of sea salt, if desired, on the chocolate side before the chocolate dries.  

*Depending on how much of the dough you commit to the chocolate variation.


Store these cookies in tight containers after they are very dry.  Place wax paper between layers.

Merry, Merry Christmas and may all your New Year’s dreams come true,
Alyce