Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Brown Sugar Almond Shortbread


The cookie season is quite over, but my oven doesn't know that because I can't seem to let go of these wonderful cookies. You'd think that there aren't very many ways to play with such a humble cookie as shortbread - you would be very wrong, and Dorie, whose recipe this is, hits the jackpot as usual.


The substitution of brown sugar for regular sugar gives these cookies an extra layer of depth, a kind of subtle scent and sweetness that enhances the extra crunch created by the addition of ground nuts. Mmm... crumbly, buttery, delicious shortbread with layers of underlying flavor. Can you tell I'm slightly in love with this recipe? Not only did I include it in my gift boxes this holiday season, I've made it several times after and I've bored my friends to tears by waxing poetic about the sheer genius of this cookie. Unfortunately, I have a feeling they only listened to me because I kept up a constant supply of shortbread! :)


Brown Sugar Almond Shortbread
Adapted slightly from Baking, Dorie Greenspan

*A few notes: (1) The original recipe called for ground pecans, but as I had none at the time, I substituted ground almonds instead - it worked really well, but I'm dying to make these with pecans; and (2) The recipe calls for an 18-20 minute baking time - I found that this was way too long and the cookies browned too much and lost flavor. I baked mine for about 12-13 minutes, just until crunchy and pale golden.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of ground cloves
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 cup finely ground almonds
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional)

Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt and cloves.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar together on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until the mixture is very smooth. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they disappear into the dough. Don’t work the dough much once the flour is incorporated. Add the almond and give the mixer a couple of turns, just to get the nuts into the dough.

Using a rubber spatula, transfer the soft, sticky dough to a gallon-size zipper-lock plastic bag. Put the bag on a flat surface, leaving the top open, and roll the dough into a 9×10-1/2-inch rectangle that’s 1/4-inch thick. As you roll, turn the bag occasionally and lift the plastic from the dough so it doesn’t cause creases. When you get the right size and thickness, seal the bag, pressing out as much air as possible, and refrigerate dough for at least 2 hours, or for up to 2 days.

Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets wiht parchment or silicone mats.

Put the plastic bag on a cutting board and slit it open. Turn the firm dough out onto the board (discard the bag) and, using a ruler as a guide and a sharp knife, cut the dough into 1-1/2 inch squares. Transfer the squares to the baking sheets and carefully prick each one twice with a fork, gently pushing the tines through the cookies until they hit the sheet. [I would also freeze each sheet for about 15 minutes before baking to stop the cookies from spreading. I did that with mine and they hardly spread].

Bake for 18-20 minutes [my time was 12-13 minutes], rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point. The shortbreads will be very pale – they shouldn’t take on much color. Transfer the cookies to a rack.

If you’d like, dust the cookies with confectioners’ sugar while they are still hot. Cool the cookies to room temperature before serving.

Yield: 32 cookies

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I know it's been quiet around here - very quiet. I've been focusing on other projects this month (as well as the birthday explosion... hey, January people, can you spread out your birthdays a little more? ;) ) and haven't been as creative in the kitchen as I generally like to be.

So for today, I don't have a recipe for you. But because of the earthquake in Haiti, the devastation of which we can unfortunately relate to all too well here in Los Angeles, I wanted to link to Chris Sacca's excellent post on how we can help the relief efforts. I feel lucky that A. and I are able to contribute and, though I am generally not the praying type of person, I would like to ask you for at least a small prayer for the victims of this terrible disaster and to keep hope in your heart for survivors.

Thanks for being here to listen.

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Friday, January 1, 2010

Baked Brie


This year, A. and I decided to do something unprecedented - we decided to stay home and throw ourselves a party. There was a menu, there were fancy clothes, there was an entire bottle of champagne, there were twinkle lights and presents and a whole lot of tipsiness... in other words, it was a totally awesome way to start the new year!

New Year's Eve 2010

My dears - in this new year, I want to wish you all much health, happiness, luck, peace, love and prosperity. May our knives always be sharp and may our cuts heal quickly. Happy 2010!


Baked Brie

1 sheet of puff pastry, defrosted if frozen
1 standard sized triangle of brie
a little olive oil, for brushing

This is a ridiculously easy thing to make, and yet, this gets me the most accolades when I do make it. You take one sheet of defrosted puff pastry (I prefer to use all-butter puff pastry), you wrap it around a good-sized triangle of brie, you brush it with a little olive oil and you bake it at 425F for about 15-20 minutes, until the pastry is flaky and golden and the cheese is all melty and ooozy goodness. Ta-daa!

You can totally dress this up by cutting the cheese in half and layering it with a bit of brown sugar, raisins and sauteed apples. I mean, it couldn't hurt, right? But the beautiful thing is that you can serve it just simple-like - beautifully puffed pastry and a molten lava of cheese. It's the kind of marriage that needs no embellishments.

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