I believe in balance. For example, if I eat three massive pieces of pepperoni pizza for dinner (yum) I will try my hardest to not eat dessert. On the contrary, if I have managed to tame my eating for most of the day, I believe in a sweet reward (thus undoing that entire day of not-horrible eating, but hey, we only go around once, right?). And since yesterday’s post was the somewhat advanced, time-consuming and ingredient-heavy (albeit delicious) recipe for yeasted coffeecake, I thought that a simple recipe with pantry ingredients would be a breath of fresh air today. Plus, shortbread cookies provide a great stepping stone into what is sure to be two weeks full of Irish-inspired recipes as we prepare to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Shortbread cookies are one of the simplest recipes you can make with ingredients that are usually always at the ready – butter, sugar, vanilla, flour and salt. That’s it! And if you want to dip them in chocolate, then of course chocolate. You’ll find no shortage of chocolate in my pantry!
The beauty of these cookies – in addition to their simplicity – is the rich flavor that is imparted from such few ingredients. They quite literally melt in your mouth, with a smooth buttery aftertaste. Shortbread and shortbread cookies can be made in a variety of shapes and sizes, although the traditional method is to bake it in a round pan and then cut into wedges. Shortbread fingers (like these) are also a very popular variety. The history of shortbread dates back to old world Scotland, where it is said that the ancient Scots baked shortbread in the winter months and put cuts in the shortbread rounds to represent the sun’s rays. Some say that this was a type of ritual to persuade the sun to return and do away with the cold winter.
Since the groundhog saw his shadow this year, I think everyone should make shortbread cookies to usher in spring and sunshine!
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.
3. Roll the dough ½-inch thick and cut into 3 by 1-inch fingers, either using a cookie cutter, pastry wheel, or pizza cutter. Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature.
4. When the cookies are cool, place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Put 3 ounces of the chocolate in a glass bowl and microwave on high power for 30 seconds. Stir with a wooden spoon. Continue to heat and stir in 30-second increments until the chocolate is just melted. Add the remaining chocolate and allow it to sit at room temperature, stirring often, until it's completely smooth. Stir vigorously until the chocolate is smooth and slightly cooled; stirring makes it glossier.
5. Dip ½ of each cookie into the chocolate to coat, letting the excess drip off. Set back on the parchment-lined sheet and let sit at room temperature until chocolate is set. Store at room temperature in a tin.