New shortbread recipes for Chinese New Year

Happy Chinese New Year!

I dreamed of some new shortbread for the Chinese New Year inspired by Asian flavors, just in time to celebrate the Year of the Dog!

All recipes are based on the basic shortbread recipe in this post.  Add-ins are indicated in red below:

Black sesame shortbread
(Basic shortbread recipe adapted from Lucy Ross Natkiel’s Classic Shortbread III recipe in The gourmet shortbread book)

1/2 cup butter, cold
1/3 cup powdered sugar (unsifted)
1 cup flour, minus 2 Tbsp. (unsifted)
2 Tbsp. rice flour*
2 1/2 Tbsp. toasted black sesame seeds

Matcha black sesame shortbread
Add 1 tsp. matcha powder to above

To toast the black sesame seeds, see this post on the China Sichuan Food blog.  I was so happy to find this post!  Prior to using this method, I always burned the black sesame seeds–they start smoking and burning within seconds.  You cannot toast black sesame seeds in the same way as white sesame seeds and toasting them is necessary to get that distinct nutty flavor.  They just don’t taste good raw…

Using a food processor, grind toasted black sesame seeds until they resemble a coarse powder (fine powder is also okay but my food processor doesn’t get it that fine).  Add all other ingredients and pulse the mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs and the butter is fully incorporated into the flour.  Spray the ceramic shortbread pan very lightly with a non-stick vegetable oil spray.  Pour the shortbread “crumbs” into the shortbread pan, and working out from the center, firmly press the dough into the pan.  Prick the entire surface with a fork.  Bake at 325 degrees for 35 minutes, or until it is lightly browned.  Be sure that the middle is thoroughly cooked and doesn’t look slightly opaque or the shortbread might stick in the pan.

Let the shortbread cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before you flip the pan over onto a cutting board.  If the shortbread does not come right out, put a cutting board on top of the pan (the cutting board should be bigger than the pan) and while holding the pan against the cutting board, turn it upside down and firmly tap one edge of the pan against the board.  This should loosen the shortbread and it should drop out.  Cut the shortbread into serving pieces while it is still warm, otherwise the edges will not be clean.

*You can skip the rice flour and just use 1 c. flour, if you wish.  The rice flour makes a flakier cookie.


Almond sesame shortbread
(Basic shortbread recipe adapted from Lucy Ross Natkiel’s Classic Shortbread III recipe in The gourmet shortbread book)

1/2 cup butter, cold
1/3 cup powdered sugar (unsifted)
1 cup flour, minus 2 Tbsp. (unsifted)
2 Tbsp. rice flour*
1/4 c. almond flour (optional, may omit)
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/2 c. to 3/4 c. toasted white sesame seeds

To toast the sesame seeds, heat them in a pan over low-medium heat until they start to turn golden brown.  Watch them carefully because they can burn quickly, turning from white to dark brown in the blink of an eye.  If they turn dark brown, toss them because they will be bitter.

Using a food processor, add all ingredients except the sesame seeds and pulse the mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs and the butter is fully incorporated into the flour.  Spray the ceramic shortbread pan very lightly with a non-stick vegetable oil spray.  Pour the shortbread “crumbs” into the shortbread pan, and working out from the center, firmly press the dough into the pan.  Spread the sesame seeds over the surface, pressing them into the dough.  Add more if needed to cover the surface completely.  Turn the pan over gently to release any loose excess sesame seeds.  Prick the entire surface with a fork.  Bake at 325 degrees for 35 minutes, or until it is lightly browned.  Be sure that the middle is thoroughly cooked and doesn’t look slightly opaque or the shortbread might stick in the pan.

Let the shortbread cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before you flip the pan over onto a cutting board.  If the shortbread does not come right out, put a cutting board on top of the pan (the cutting board should be bigger than the pan) and while holding the pan against the cutting board, turn it upside down and firmly tap one edge of the pan against the board.  This should loosen the shortbread and it should drop out.  Cut the shortbread into serving pieces while it is still warm, otherwise the edges will not be clean.

*You can skip the rice flour and just use 1 c. flour, if you wish.  The rice flour makes a flakier cookie.


Oolong tea shortbread
(Basic shortbread recipe adapted from Lucy Ross Natkiel’s Classic Shortbread III recipe in The gourmet shortbread book)

1/2 cup butter, cold
1/3 cup powdered sugar (unsifted)
1 cup flour, minus 2 Tbsp. (unsifted)
2 Tbsp. rice flour*
1 Tbsp. Oolong tea leaves (loose)
or
contents of 1 Oolong tea bag

Using a food processor, add all ingredients and pulse the mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs and the butter is fully incorporated into the flour.  Spray the ceramic shortbread pan very lightly with a non-stick vegetable oil spray.  Pour the shortbread “crumbs” into the shortbread pan, and working out from the center, firmly press the dough into the pan.  Prick the entire surface with a fork.  Bake at 325 degrees for 35 minutes, or until it is lightly browned.  Be sure that the middle is thoroughly cooked and doesn’t look slightly opaque or the shortbread might stick in the pan.

Let the shortbread cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before you flip the pan over onto a cutting board.  If the shortbread does not come right out, put a cutting board on top of the pan (the cutting board should be bigger than the pan) and while holding the pan against the cutting board, turn it upside down and firmly tap one edge of the pan against the board.  This should loosen the shortbread and it should drop out.  Cut the shortbread into serving pieces while it is still warm, otherwise the edges will not be clean.

*You can skip the rice flour and just use 1 c. flour, if you wish.  The rice flour makes a flakier cookie.

May these shortbread cookies bring sweetness and joy to the new year!

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Rosewater pistachio shortbread

I would never mess with a really good chocolate chip cookie–it doesn’t need improvement. I don’t quite feel the same way about shortbread. To me, classic shortbread is a good cookie base with simple ingredients, making it the ideal cookie for infusing with different flavors, right?  I know a few diehards who would prefer if I just stuck to making classic shortbread but I recently gifted myself with not one but TWO new shortbread molds which will finally allow me to bake more than one batch of shortbread at a time! Oh my, think of the possibilities! 🙂

Last month, I had grand plans during Chinese New Year to experiment with Chinese influenced flavors for shortbread but Time escaped me and I missed the window of opportunity (next year, I promise!).  Instead of dwelling on bygones, I decided to look forward to the next new year’s holiday for more timely inspiration, the Persian new year, Nowruz.  Spurred on by a recipe in the February 2017 issue of Bon appetit, the timing was perfect for developing a Persian flavor influenced shortbread in time for Nowruz: Rosewater pistachio.

Rosewater pistachio shortbread
(basic recipe adapted from Lucy Ross Natkiel’s Nut Shortbread recipe in The gourmet shortbread book)

1/2 cup butter, cold
1/2 cup powdered sugar (unsifted)
1 cup flour, minus 2 Tbsp. (unsifted)
2 Tbsp. rice flour*
1 Tbsp. rosewater
1/4 c. shelled roasted unsalted pistachios

Using a food processor, add all ingredients and pulse the mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs and the butter is fully incorporated into the flour. Spray the ceramic shortbread pan very lightly with a non-stick vegetable oil spray. Pour the shortbread “crumbs” into the shortbread pan, and working out from the center, firmly press the dough into the pan. Prick the entire surface with a fork. Bake at 325 degrees for 35 minutes, or until it is lightly browned. Be sure that the middle is thoroughly cooked and doesn’t look slightly opaque or the shortbread might stick in the pan.

Let the shortbread cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before you flip the pan over onto a cutting board. If the shortbread does not come right out, put a cutting board on top of the pan (the cutting board should be bigger than the pan) and while holding the pan against the cutting board, turn it upside down and firmly tap one edge of the pan against the board. This should loosen the shortbread and it should drop out. Cut the shortbread into serving pieces while it is still warm, otherwise the edges will not be clean.

*You can skip the rice flour and just use 1 c. flour, if you wish. The rice flour makes a flakier cookie.

Happy new year!  Happy Nowruz!

“Yesterday is gone and its tale told. Today new seeds are growing.”

– Rumi

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Savory shortbread, savory cookies?

The idea of savory cookies is one that I can’t quite wrap around my palate.  Savory shortbread?  Even more off-putting!

The first time I ever tried a “savory cookie” (rosemary shortbread with Gorgonzola) it blew my mind and my taste buds!  It wasn’t at all what I expected and I certainly was not looking forward to trying it, seeing as I don’t like the sweet variety.  The second time I had a savory cookie (bleu cheese and sage shortbread with goat cheese and cranberries), I didn’t like it.  It’s always nice when your first experience with a new food is a good one because then it’s worth repeating.

It’s time to make my own savory cookie/shortbread!  I found a recipe on Epicurious.com that looked promising.  I almost never follow a recipe to the letter but since I was venturing into new territory, I decided not to be too creative.  The shortbread turned out very nicely indeed, with fresh rosemary from the garden!  These would be great served as part of a savories course for afternoon tea.

Parmesan, Rosemary, and Walnut Shortbread
(from Epicurious.com)

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 ounces freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted at 350°F for 10 minutes, then chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch cayenne pepper

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter; add the Parmesan, and mix well. Stir in the flour, rosemary, walnuts, salt, black pepper, and cayenne. Form the mixture into 1-inch-wide logs, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least half an hour, or up to 3 days.

When you’re ready to bake the shortbread, position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Cut the logs into 1/4-inch-thick slices, place the slices on the baking sheet, and bake for 15 minutes, or until golden at the edges. Remove the shortbread slices and cool them on a wire rack. You can offer these by themselves passed in a basket, or top them with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto.

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“Think what a better world it would be if we all, the whole world, had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down on our blankets for a nap.”

Shortbread for tea

My friend S. told me that I must have Gaelic blood in me, and that I should be made an honorary Scotswoman for my “excellent” homemade shortbread.  It is a welcomed compliment (who doesn’t like a compliment?) 😉 made sweeter by the fact that I don’t even like shortbread (I don’t like butter!  Blasphemous, I know!).  I’ve heard that shortbread is the perfect cookie to accompany a cup of tea. 🙂

The odd thing is that I really like making shortbread because I have an affinity and appreciation for one-trick pony kitchen wares such as shortbread molds.  I own a shortbread mold that has flowers and berries.  I acquired it secondhand and use it exclusively for baking shortbread.  Although I’ve tried using it for baking rolls and bagels, it’s not ideal for use as a general baking stone.  However, if you don’t have a shortbread mold, you can use a pizza stone or even unglazed ceramic tile on which to bake your shortbread.  You won’t get the pretty designs but you can always get fancy by kneading, rolling out the dough, and cutting it with cookie cutters.  It will still be delicious!

The following basic shortbread recipe can serve as the base for any shortbread variation.  Favorite variations in our household are orange or lemon poppyseed shortbread (add 1 Tbsp. zest and 1 Tbsp. poppy seeds to the basic shortbread recipe below) and jam filled shortbread.  For other variations such as matcha, chai, and other tea shortbread, see Henni’s variations below.

A platter of assorted shortbread fingers! Outer layer: classic shortbread–Middle layer: orange poppyseed shortbread–Inner layer: pear jam filled shortbread

Basic shortbread
(adapted from Lucy Ross Natkiel’s Classic Shortbread III recipe in The gourmet shortbread book)

1/2 cup butter, cold
1/3 cup powdered sugar (unsifted)
1 cup flour, minus 2 Tbsp. (unsifted)
2 Tbsp. rice flour*

Using a food processor, add all ingredients and pulse the mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs and the butter is fully incorporated into the flour.  Spray the ceramic shortbread pan very lightly with a non-stick vegetable oil spray.  Pour the shortbread “crumbs” into the shortbread pan, and working out from the center, firmly press the dough into the pan.  Prick the entire surface with a fork.  Bake at 325 degrees for 35 minutes, or until it is lightly browned.  Be sure that the middle is thoroughly cooked and doesn’t look slightly opaque or the shortbread might stick in the pan.

Let the shortbread cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before you flip the pan over onto a cutting board.  If the shortbread does not come right out, put a cutting board on top of the pan (the cutting board should be bigger than the pan) and while holding the pan against the cutting board, turn it upside down and firmly tap one edge of the pan against the board.  This should loosen the shortbread and it should drop out.  Cut the shortbread into serving pieces while it is still warm, otherwise the edges will not be clean.

*You can skip the rice flour and just use 1 c. flour, if you wish.  The rice flour makes a flakier cookie.

For other shortbread recipes, visit: http://shortbreadpan.com/index.php/category/recipes/

Henni’s variations:

  • Almond sesame shortbread: Add 1/2 tsp. almond extract. Press toasted sesame seeds onto top of shortbread.  
  • Matcha shortbread: Add 2 tsp. green tea leaves and 1/2 tsp. good quality matcha powder.  Optional: Press black sesame seeds onto top of shortbread.  
  • Masala chai shortbread: Add 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. cardamom, 1/4 tsp. ginger, 1/4 tsp. cloves, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, contents of 1 black tea bag or 2 tsp. loose leaf black tea (such as English breakfast).
  • Oolong tea shortbread: Add 1 Tbsp. oolong tea leaves.

Charlie Brown: “Empty?! You took all the cookies!”
Snoopy: “They were crying to get out of the jar… Cookies get claustrophobia too, you know!”

― Charles M. Schulz

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