Sunday, October 02, 2011

Shortbread Fantasies recipe (SSSOOOO Good!)

Shortbread plain

Ok, so I have a little admission ~ I LOVE shortbread!  It all started when ....  no, it actually all started when I was a little girl, & my mom made all these awesome homemade goodies ~ granola, pickles, bread, jam, fruit leather, you name it, she made it, and in GOURMET style. 
Amongst all those tasty delicacies, was melt in your mouth shortbread. 
Fast forward many (many....) years to last week. 

There we were, My son & I , standing in the cookie isle, while he tried to decide what sort of cookies he wanted for a scout trip.  As my eyes wandered about, I saw a package of Lorna Doone's.  And then I remembered with fondness (much, actually) the delicious taste of my mother's shortbread.

That sort of started something in the two little OCD brain cells I have left.  In fact, it sparked a long-held-off desire for that heavenly buttery goodness.  I've been eating so righteously for years...surely one little bitty bit of shortbread wouldn't kill me off, right?

I sort of denied the desire to have shortbread... thought. oh no, not a wise choice.  But then ~ my son ALSO decided he wanted to try it.  He said " Wait, what?  Shortbread is a cookie that tastes of butter & sugar?  Can there be anything better?  Can it include chocolate & carmel?"

Being a ~ love to cook for those who will appreciate it ~ type of cook, I immediately began mulling over just WHAT sort of shortbread to make.  (Yes, yes, I know.. but if my son was WANTING to eat it, why I could justify 1 pound of butter shorbread immediately ~ no qualms about it!)

Since I couldn't find my mother's recipe, I started searching the net, basically researching shortbread.  I found several tasty looking recipes, & lots of commentary on different recipes ~ thought I might make one recipe, then would find yet another, seemingly better one.

Finally, however, I decided to just make up my own.

Shortbread with caramel & chocolate on top

Since my husband likes things a little less sweet, I kept half of the pan plain, & on the other half I spread caramel, Ghiradeli's extra dark, semi-sweet, & butterscotch chips.  I reccomend serving these with vanilla icecream, as they are soooo good, but soooo powerfully rich!

Close-up of the shortbread, you can see the flaky nature of the cookie, you must cook them long enough, cut while warm, & then CHILL them before serving.

I served these up for dinner tonight, and literally, an entire 18"x12" pan was gone (GONE) in 7 1/2 minutes!  So I guess they turned out allright.  ;-D
Ok, so get to the recipe already, right?  ;-D

Carol's Best Shortbread Ever (humble, I know :-D)
Oven: 325*F
Bake Time: 20 - 30 minutes, depending on desired crispness
Yield:  18"x12" pan, when baked as bars, 72 thumbprints as cookies

Ingredients:  2 cups (4 sticks, or 1 pound) GRADE AA Butter ~ room temperature
3/4 Cup packed Brown sugar
1/4 cup powdered confectioner's sugar ( also called icing sugar)
1 tsp REAL Vanilla extract
1 tsp REAL almond extract
1 cup cornstarch
2 3/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup flour for board to knead

A few words about the ingredients ~ as all good chef's & cooks know ~ there is NO SUBSTITUTE for butter, & the higher the grade, the better the butter.  Shortbread simply should NOT be made with anything else.  The butter is a huge contributor to overall flavor, flakiness, & melting point.  Another NO SUBSTITUTE ingredient is the vanilla & almond extracts.  Also, yes, I know, the one whole CUP of cornstarch looks wrong, but it isn't.  Cornstarch is a type of flour, & in this case, it contributes to the lightness & texture of the shorbread. 

Process:  Put the four sticks of butter into a bowl with the packed brown sugar ( I only like to use the Dark Brown from C&H, it's real cane sugar) & powdered sugar.  Use a pastry cutter to mix up the butter & sugar.  Once you have mixed in the butter & sugars, scrape off the cutter ( & your hands! ;-D) & add the vanilla & almond extracts.  Fold in with spatula a bit.

In a separate bowl, measure in the 2 3/4 cups flour, salt, & cornstarch.  Whisk together, then add to the sugars, butter & extracts mixture.  Make sure you have that little 1/4 cup of flour in a measure cup waiting for you to use, because you will need it to flour the counter/board.  This is where it gets fun.  CAREFULLY stick your hands in the bowl, & start squishing away!  If you aren't careful here, you will poof flour all over.  Moosh & goosh till you have worked it into a dough. (There may be a bit of flour left on the sides or bottom ~ scrape this all out & work it in when you knead the dough.) 

Now is the time to sprinkle some of the flour onto the counter ~ then dump your dough onto the floured counter.  Knead the dough for a few minutes.  This is really quite fun, & it makes a beautiful workable dough. 

This is where you have to decide ~ what am I going to do with all of this lovely dough?  Should I pull off little balls, shove my thumb into them, dump some of that tasty spiced pear jam into the middle & bake them?  Or should I press the whole thing into an 18"x12"x1" cookie sheet, prick randomly with a fork, & go for the bars?

In this instance ( as you can see from the pics), I went for the bars, & then added some more tasty goodness after they finished baking.  By the way, the cookies should only have the lightest of browning on the bottom & edges.  Here's what to do for carmel:

1 can of sweetened condensed milk
A little bit ( maybe 1/4 cup) of whipping cream

Heat the milk up slowly, on low heat, add in the cream a little at a time, once it has darkened some ( it won't be the dark color of store-bought carmel, if you wait for it to get that dark, you will have rock hard carmel that is difficult to spread.) test it for taste, & spread it across the top of the shortbread.  One can spreads nicely over half the pan, so if you want to cover the whole shebang, you'll need to double the recipe.

Don't worry if the top of the shortbread pulls up in a few places, the chocolate will cover it.
Speaking of the chocolate, here's my easy cheesy way of doing it ~ sprinkle chips ( I used Ghiradeli's extra-dark, semi-sweet, & butterscotch chips) evenly over the top of the carmel.
Now pop the whole thing in the oven ( still at 325*F) & let it sit in there for about 5 or 6 minutes.
To test if the chips are melted enough, take an icing knife and spread the edge.  If it spreads, its done.
Take it out, spread it, & then cut the squares.
Make them smallish ~ these are DEVASTATING! ;-D
Now, if you can resist, only cut a few out for tasting ~ they will crumble.  Put them in the fridge to chill for a bit.  This GREATLY helps relieve the crumble issue.  But don't let them sit there too long, or they will be hard to get out (we are talking butter fats here ~ fats harden in cold temps...;-D... yes, I learned the hard way...)
 If you can possibly handle it, wait till the next day to eat these ~ they will make you sigh with sweet happiness.... oh, and you will likely need a glass of water nearby, cuz, again, VERY RICH!


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