Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Trying to please with more than one shortbread...

When Jeff walked into the kitchen this morning and spotted this sitting on the counter, his first words were "Boy... with 5 sticks of butter, Paula Deen would sure be proud of you!" You guessed it, another busy round of baking for Wednesday Treat Day for Jeff's co-workers. I usually buy butter at Trader Joe's, but since it is not convenient anymore, we just started buying it at Costco... today's treats certainly made a dent in the new butter supply!

I wanted to give options this time, so this time I made a few different flavored shortbreads.

The first one, Tweed Cakes, started out as a basic shortbread - but with the addition of chocolate covered toffee bits, the texture changes and the plain butter flavor takes on a caramelized twist. Instead of being more crisp, these golden cookies turn more chewy as the toffee melts into the rich dough. With the dark bits of chocolate showing through, these cut very clean - the trick is do use a sharp knife while they are still warm. If they cool much, they will start to crumble as you slice.

I made two more, but basically used the same recipe with one having more spice. The recipe, Chocolate Shortbread, has a slightly different baking method as you chill the dough for at least 2 hours, while the one above can be baked right away. These ended up being thicker than the Tweed Cakes and had that classic texture of being tender, yet still very crisp. Dutch-process cocoa adds a deep chocolate tone and compliments the delicate butter flavor. While one is straight-forward in taste, the other has a more complex profile as I spiced up the flavor with cinnamon, ancho chili powder and black pepper. While you can't tell them apart - if you smell the dark colored pieces side-by-side, the aroma is definitely different. You don't taste much heat at first bite, but it slowly creeps up on you and is very addictive. To help the dough to be even and smooth, I used the flat bottom of a large measuring cup to press it into the pan. For both recipes, I used a fork to prick the dough in several places to keep it from puffing up - I was going to try and make a design, but glad I didn't bother as most of them just closed up as the dough baked.

As the nights begin to get colder, Spicy Mulligatawny certainly warmed us up this evening with the use of hot madras curry powder and crushed red peppers. Mulligatawny translates to "Peppery Water" and is an Anglo-Indian dish. If you don't handle heat well, I would definitely halve the spices here. After a quick cook of chopped chicken breast, sweet Braeburn apples, onions, carrots, celery and red bell peppers are added and cooked until they begin to soften. Flour and spices are stirred in and briefly toasted before chicken broth, mango chutney and thick tomato paste are mixed in. Once it comes to a boil, the heat is reduced and the soup simmers for only 10 minutes, but this is enough time to allow the flour and tomato paste to give some body to the broth. Another dimension of heat comes from the bite given off from the ground ginger. The sweet mango chutney and chopped apples help balance the heat, but don't let that fool you - it is still quite spicy.


  1. You are amazing! I love the two shortbreads together: great for a buffet some time. BTW I remember getting butter from Sam's (yes, cheap!) and then reading that the fat content was lower (like European butters are higher ...) and thinking, Hmm, that's why everything turned out different. Any experience on your end?

  2. PS I'd think that you'd be a Land o' Lakes guy like I'm a Land o' Lakes gal. No?! There was a LoL creamery right in my little MN hometown of 1000 people, gone now of course although the building still remains.

  3. AK - Actually, I did used to use Land O Lakes all the time... but when we go through as much as we do for baking, it got too expensive.

    The unsalted butter quality from Costco is excellent - I couldn't tell a difference between TJs, LOL or Costco. There was no baking difference - at least in these butter cookies!

  4. Wow Joe - the shortbreads look great! Particularly the chocolate one with all the extra spices.

    A friend got me hooked on chocolate cake that he added chili to a few years back - who'd think that something that sounds so odd could be so good! Was VERY popular at our Cinco de Mayo party!

    ak I pass a Land O Lakes warehouse on my way too/from work every day! I always fantasize about them having mountain of unwrapped butter sticks in there, but something tells me that's not how it works.

    And I'm with Joe - I get our butter in 3 1-pound bundle packages at Sam's Club. It's a LITTLE inconvenient since they're a solid 1-pound block (as opposed to four sticks), but not unbearably so. I get 'em, bag 'em, and freeze til needed.

  5. That tweed cake looks like a lot of fun...be great for a partay!

  6. Now that we have a TJ's I'm going to have to check out their butter, I tend to go through quite a bit myself!

  7. Hi Joe - the shortbreads look fantastic - I love your alternating presentation of them!

  8. Your shortbread cookies look too perfect to eat. I used to buy my unsalted butter at TJ's too, but my Costco just starting carrying unsalted butter (much cheaper than TJ).

  9. I LOVE shortbread, but I am absolutely going to have to try the soup! I looks delicious!