Tag Archives: Cookie

Chocolate Dipped Shortbread

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One year.  My little blog is one year old!  Hard to believe.  So, for my one year anniversary, I decided to write a blog about my secret most favorite obsession.  I have never confessed this to anyone, but my favorite cookie, bar none (Ha! I see what I did there…), is shortbread.  Delightfully simple.  Crumbly, buttery, and just simply fantastic.  I tried Walker’s Scottish Shortbread years ago and was simply enchanted, despite the fact that it lacked my most favorite ingredient:  Chocolate.

Shortbread, said to be the favorite cookie of Mary, Queen of Scots, first appeared in cookbooks in 1736.  Interestingly, it started as a yeast recipe.  But the mid-1800s, it morphed into the more modern familiar butter-flour-sugar based recipe.

Finding a recipe was rather easy, but there seems to be a bit of a divide.  Some recipes are very purist:  flour, sugar, and butter.  But there is some discussion about adding either cornstarch or rice starch to the mix.  The recipe I used called for confectioner’s sugar, which is essentially sugar mixed with cornstarch.   Why cornstarch or rice starch or rice flour?  These items contribute bulk without toughness because there is no protein or gluten.  Fun fact I learned making these cookies!

“Short” in baking vernacular is not a description of the size of final product, but that something was used to shorten the gluten strands that form when you use flour.  So, shortbread will be a crumbly cookie, because it lacks long strands of gluten.  The butter playing the part of “shortening” the gluten strands.

I added the chocolate not for my own amusement, but my daughter thought the cookies would be better with chocolate.  I did not, I thought they were perfect plain.  Of course, she won out!

I found the recipe in James Beard’s American Cookery and added the chocolate!

Chocolate Dipped Shortbread

1 1/2 cups butter (some recommend 1/2 salted/1/2 unsalted)
1 cup powdered sugar (may also use plain sugar)
4 cups sifted all-purpose flour

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 tablespoon butter

Cream the butter until almost like whipped cream. Gradually cream in the sugar and continue beating until very light. Stir in the flour, then turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured board or counter and knead the mixture until it is very smooth and will break slightly when the thumb is run from the center to the edge of the ball of dough.
Side note: This is not “dough” in the traditional sense. This is a pile of crumbs. Seriously. See photo below:
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You can still kind of knead it and see that it does change consistency after several minutes. I seriously wasn’t expecting it to be a pile of sand. Now, if you omit the confectioner’s sugar and just use regular sugar, I doubt your dough would look like this.

Traditionally, this dough is pressed into shallow pie pans, the dough being about a 1/2 inch thick. The edges are fluted as on a pie crust, and the serving portions are stippled across the dough with a fork so that the shortbread can be broken easily into small pieces. Prick the dough with a fork in even the smallest pans, or it is apt to blister in the enter.

Bake in a 275-300 degree oven until the dough turns a pale brown around the edges. Time of baking depends on size of pan and thickness of the dough.

Remove from the pan, cool on a rack, and store in an airtight container.

For the chocolate dipping sauce: place chocolate and butter in a microwave safe bowl. Using 50% power, in small bursts of time, microwave the chocolate and butter until just melted through. I do this in 2 minute increments and stir between times. Slather on cookies, let dry.

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Peanut Butter Blossoms

Peanut Butter Blossoms

I remember making Peanut Butter Blossoms when I was a kid.  Sure, it was a trans fat nightmare way back then.  But, what wasn’t?  Now, I look at the recipe for Peanut Butter Blossoms helpfully provided on the back of the package of Hershey’s Kisses and think:  I can do better.  Shortening?  No thanks.    I don’t have anything against vegetable shortening, per se, I’m just skeptical.  Vegetable shortening is pure white and kind of waxy.  What vegetable has this kind of fat?  If it’s soy, I’m out.  Too many GMO issues.  Ditto corn.  I’m just at a loss to explain how a vegetable has fat that is pure white.  So, I don’t use it.

Reese’s Peanut Butter?  Eek!  Have you seen the ingredients list?

ROASTED PEANUTS; SUGAR; CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF: HYDROGENATED VEGETABLE OIL (RAPESEED, COTTONSEED, AND SOYBEAN OILS); SALT; PEANUT OIL; MONOGLYCERIDES; MOLASSES; CORNSTARCH

Pass.  So, I subbed out lard and butter for the shortening and a “no stir” natural peanut butter for the Reese’s brand.  Jif Natural Peanut Butter has Palm Oil for the stabilizer and while that particular ingredient has environmental issues, it’s not hydrogenated.  Every ingredient can’t be completely perfect!

The result?  Well, I was really nervous.  As much as trans fat is bad for you, it does serve a purpose in the baking world.  There are entire cookies that are based on trans fats because of their specific mouth feel.  I avoid them like the plague, but was concerned with what would happen with my little cookie.  Would they crumble?  Be too dry?  Not hold the blossom?

The cookies didn’t make it more than a few days in the house.  They were actually better than the normal recipe!  The cookies were crispy on the outside, tender on the inside.  My husband, who is not a peanut butter cookie person loved these.  The kids were  scarfing these down.  Lastly, the blossom stayed in place!!  Success!!!

By using old world ingredients, I remade this cookie to be not so lethal.

Peanut Butter Blossoms
Makes 34-48 Cookies (depends on side of cookie created)

48 HERSHEY’S KISSES Brand Milk Chocolates, unwrapped (mileage may vary here, I got about 34 cookies)

¼ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup lard
¾  cup Natural, No Stir (I used Jif) Peanut Butter
1 teaspoon baking soda
⅓  cup granulated sugar
⅓  cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-½  cups all-purpose flour
½  teaspoon salt
Additional granulated sugar

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
    In a mixing bowl, combine the butter, lard and peanut butter.  Mix until well combined.  Add the sugars and the baking soda.  Mix well until fluffy.   Add the egg and mix.  Add the whole milk and mix again.  Add the vanilla extract and mix until all ingredients are incorporated.
    In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and the salt.   In 3 separate additions, add the flour to the sugar mix, mixing well between additions.
    Shape dough into roughly 1 inch balls.  Roll the balls in granulated sugar and placed on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat.  Bake 8-10 minutes until lightly brown.
    Upon removal from the oven, immediately press a chocolate kiss in the center of the cookie.  Expect the cookie to crack.
    Remove cookies from the pan and let cool on a wire rack.
Peanut Butter Blossoms

Careful not to burn yourself while you put the kiss in the screaming hot cookie!

Peanut Butter Blossoms

Gingerbread Cookies

Gingerbread Cookies

I tell people my kids decorate the cookies.

I’ve pretty much always hated gingerbread, in all forms, until about 2 years ago.   Maybe I had bad gingerbread in the past.  Maybe I didn’t want to waste the calories on a non-chocolate cookie.  Who knows.  I had no interest in gingerbread.  Plus, my attempts at icing a cookie would probably get me a star spot on a pinterest fail website.  In other words, while I can cook, I cannot decorate.  I don’t think I have the fine motor skills required for such precision work.  So, these cookies were never on my “to make list” because they lacked chocolate and required decoration.  One day I was looking at traditional Christmas fare and, well, gingerbread is pretty traditional and old.  It should be something I tried.   I tried making it, and… it was awesome, for a non-chocolate cookie!!  While I still can’t decorate them well (see above), poor optics is a small price to pay for good cookies.

Despite all the grand varieties of Christmas cookies I am willing to make (and eat!!), the kids request this cookie first every year!

Gingerbread is a rather old food, some think as many as a thousand years old.    It can be a crisp cookie or a thick bread.  It can be dark in color or light.  There’s really no one gingerbread.  What I love about these cookies is that they aren’t particularly sweet, but very crisp and are bursting with traditional Christmas spices.  Also, no mixer is used in the making of these cookies, allowing multiple cookie doughs to be prepared at one time!

As this is a very old fashioned recipe, it lacks a certain level of fussiness.  No need to refrigerate the dough for an hour (or overnight).  The dough is incredibly easy to roll out.  It’s not sticky at all.  It won’t mess up your hands or completely coat your dough roller.  It doesn’t need to rise.  You make it, you bake it.    I cannot speak highly enough about this recipe.

Typically, I try to use historical recipes for my blog.  However, when I looked through all of my historical recipe books for a really old gingerbread cookie recipe, the measurements were a bit scary.  A peck of flour.  Um, say again?  A dozen eggs.  How many cookies are we making?!?!  So, I found a recipe on epicurious.com that used traditional methods but had actual measurements I could follow.  I tweaked it and came up with the one below.  I cannot stress how easy these are to make, but more importantly, how awesome they are to eat.

Having made this recipe lots of times, you really need to Martha Stewart the prep work and have it all done and ready to go before you begin. The recipe moves very fast. Again, it’s not hard, just fast.

Gingerbread Cookies
Yield: Depends on size of cookie cutters
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 9-10 minutes per batch (turn cookie sheet halfway through at the 4 minute mark)

2/3 cup molasses (not robust)
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar (I used light brown with no adverse consequences)
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 3/4 all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a heavy bottomed 4 quart sauce pan, bring molasses, brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, allspice and cloves to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Once a boil is reached, remove pan from the stove and add the baking soda. The mixture will foam and “grow” at this point, as well as lighten in color slightly. If you have kids, this part is really cool. After the baking soda is incorporated, add the butter 2-3 pieces at a time. Butter should be completely incorporated prior to the next addition. Add the egg and combine well. Stir in the flour and salt.

Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface. Knead until the dough is soft and easy to handle. You may need to add some flour if the dough is too wet (no more than ¼ cup). I’ve never really had to add much more than an obligatory sprinkle on top, no where near the ¼ cup. Unfortunately, this isn’t an exact science, so I can’t give you a precise amount.

Divide the dough in half. Wrap half of the dough in plastic wrap and set aside. Roll the remaining dough out on a lightly floured surface to 1/8th of an inch. Use your favorite cookie cutters and cut shapes. Transfer the cookies to a lined baking sheet (with a silicone liner or parchment paper, etc.), and bake about 9-10 minutes. The directions of the original recipe advise to bake “until the edges are slightly darker”. Well, the cookies are really dark to begin with, so I never see much of a difference. They just look done at somewhere around the 9 to 10 minute mark.

Cool on wire racks and decorate. I use cookie icing products that have the tips built in. I know, it’s processed “food” and bad. I’m already eating a cookie loaded with gluten and sugar. We are beyond bad at this point. Besides, these products don’t taste that much different than homemade and are so much easier to clean up!!

Gingerbread Cookie Spices

Gingerbread Cookies

Gingerbread Cookie Dough

GIngerbread Cookie dough

Soft and ready to roll!!