Monday, December 14, 2009

Shaken Shortbreads

Leave it to me to become the family's drama queen today. In all honesty, I wasn't trying to become any source of attention, since really, who needs the trouble? - but life has a way of throwing you some curveballs along the way. For instance, this morning as I was driving to my doctor's office (and the irony here will become clear in a moment) I was quite sharply rear-ended by a hit and run driver while stopped at a streetlight. Luckily I didn't hit my head, nor was the car all that damaged, but I was (well, am) shaken up and left with a wicked headache and sore upper back from the jerk (both of them... :-) ). I was even able to report it to the police, thankfully, since I had the plate number! But, needless to say that little escapade put a serious kink into my day! Adding the fact that I have two major exams tomorrow (again, thanking Heaven I wasn't en route to one today!), and it's been a wee bit hectic 'round here!

So, consistency - as you no doubt have noticed from my erratic posts recently - is not exactly my strong suit. But if I can be sure of anything these days (and let's face it, with the world in the upheaval it's in that's a rarity) it is that regardless of what happens from the months of January to November during the year, come December first our kitchen turns into a zone Julia Child would worship. I'm talking butter. Eggs. Gratuitous indulgences in sugar, flour and chocolate. Regardless of the hours clocked at the gym (gym? What is this foreign word you mention?) or the fact that our cupboard does in fact have more whole wheat than white pasta in it, it's all a placid facade hiding the gluttony behind the scenes. But, it's only once a year, and at least it's something we can all look forward to without fail!

It used to be simply my mom's ultra-decadent, ├╝ber famous shortbreads that graced the bill at Christmastime. Butter, flour, sugar and an egg yolk, and my sister and I were happy as clams (where the heck does that saying come from?) from 12:01AM December 1 through 11:59PM December 31. We would eagerly anticipate the season as the golden one-pound bricks of butter began stockpiling in our freezer through November, and at the end of the year we mourned the buttery, crumbly death of the last sprinkled star or Santa Claus. With recent years, and most markedly my "home rest" period off of school when I started blogging, the cookie repetoire has expanded. Or ballooned, really. Actually, it's probably grown at a rate roughly equal to the waistlines of those eating a week of turkey dinners with extra stuffing. But you get it. Lots of cookies. In fact, even the list that I made only 10 days ago has morphed slightly - but sadly (for me) the bulk of the baking is over this year, with most of the goodies packed, shipped, taken home or otherwise delivered. Now the work begins - telling you all about it!

I would be remiss if I didn't once again re-post the aforementioned shortbread cookie recipe for Food Blogga's Eat Christmas Cookies event... they still are one of the three undying staple recipes of the holiday season here (with the other two being the Braided Challah and Filled Holiday Brioche). This year I was lucky enough to share the cookie-making experience with some new (but dear!) Twitter friends, including one who is a master sprinkle placement official! The tray above includes some of her master handiwork - who wouldn't want that giant purple Mickey Mouse??

Like I've said in previous years, don't halve this sucker. Really. It won't work. Just eat the evidence... unless cookies are baked they can't be that bad, right?

Mom’s Shortbread Cookies
Makes 30 (ish)
1 cup salted butter, softened (NO SUBSTITUTES!!)
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup icing sugar
2 cups flour
  1. Cream butter, egg yolk, and vanilla (mum uses a fork for this!).
  2. Sift icing sugar and flour into the creamed mixture.
  3. Mix to combine into a workable dough.
  4. Roll out and cut into shapes with cookie cutters.
  5. Place cookies onto ungreased cookie sheets.
  6. Decorate as desired - this year saw the introduction of chocolate-covered espresso beans!
  7. Bake in a preheated 325F oven for 20 minutes. Cookies should not have much, if any, browning!
  8. Let cool completely on sheets.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 94.1
Total Fat: 6.4 g
Cholesterol: 23.1 mg
Sodium: 44.0 mg
Total Carbs: 8.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.2 g
Protein: 1.0 g

The other shortbread recipe I decided on this year, as apparently I tend to do two each season now(!), is a very slight adaptation to an equally simple dough from Elizabeth Baird's "Four Seasons of Canadian Food" blog on Canadian Living. I didn't do much to this cookie except reduce and divide the sources of fat (adding a bit of shortening [hides] for sturdiness), adding a touch of Demerara sugar to the already delicious caramelly brown in the recipe and mixing up the flours to add an iota of brown rice's nutrition where there would normally just be cornstarch. The dough is stuffed with oats and lots of tiny bittersweet chocolate bits - I used a bar of 70% cocoa solids chocolate that I froze before taking a hammer to it in order to get the tiny shards, but really if I was pressed for time (and be forewarned, these cookies do have to chill in the freezer for a minimum of 3 hours - I recommend 6-8) I'd just toss in the same measurement of mini chocolate chips. The darker chocolate is a better flavour contrast though, especially when the casing is basically a butter/sugar envelope!

Oats and Chocolate Shortbread Coins
Makes about 36
½ cup salted butter, softened
1/3 cup shortening
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
3 tbsp packed Demerara sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp vanilla
¼ cup brown rice flour (or cornstarch)
¾ cup quick rolled oats (not instant, the 5-to-10 minute kind)
¾ cup flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
5 oz bittersweet chocolate or chocolate chips, chopped
  1. In a large bowl, beat together the butter, shortening and sugars until light.
  2. Add salt and vanilla, beating well.
  3. Stir in the rice flour by hand, followed by rolled oats and flours.
  4. Fold in the chocolate pieces.
  5. Divide the dough in half, shape each portion into a log and freeze 3 hours.
  6. Preheat oven to 275°F and line 2 sheets with parchment or silicone.
  7. Using a serrated knife, cut 1/2" slices and place about 1/2" apart.
  8. Bake one sheet at a time for about 40 minutes, until bottoms are lightly browned.
  9. Chill remaining dough slices in the fridge in between bakings.
  10. Let baked cookies cool on the sheets for 5-10 minutes, then move to a rack and cool completely.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 96.7
Total Fat: 5.9 g
Cholesterol: 7.8 mg
Sodium: 36.0 mg
Total Carbs: 10.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.8 g
Protein: 1.1 g

2 comments :

kat said...

Why on earth would anyone want to halve that recipe!? Glad your accident was only minor.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

"a wee bit hectic"? Good grief, Sarah, you've had some hellish luck. I can't believe you found time to bake and post too! You rock! Please take care of yourself. And I hope the cops catch that jerk.