Baker’s Delight: Lime Shortbread

First, don’t forget to enter our great giveaway! It ends tomorrow!

This weekend I needed to make a quick dessert and so I turned to one of my newest cookbooks, Bon Appetit Dessert. Heather actually gave me this amazing cookbook for my birthday and I just couldn’t wait to start trying the delicious recipes! This recipe was for Lemon Shortbread Squares but I switched it up to to make them lime. We LOVED them! I doubled the recipe and put them in a 12×18 bar pan which made them thinner than the original recipe but it was perfect for us. These are just so good and so incredibly easy!

LIME SHORTBREAD
(Adapted from Bon Appetit Desserts)
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1/2 c. sugar
1 Tb. finely grated lime peel
3/4 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 Tb. fresh lime juice
2 Tb. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. flour

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spray pan with nonstick spray.

Using fingertips, rub sugar and lime peel together in large bowl to release essential oils in peel. Add butter. Using electric mixer, beat until mixture in light and fluffy. Beat in lime juice, then cornstarch, and salt, Add flour and beat just until blended. Using fingers, press dough firmly and evenly over bottom of prepared pan. Pierce dough all over with fork.

Bake shortbread until cooked through and just golden brown, about 50 minutes. Cool in pan on rack 10 minutes. Cut and enjoy. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

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Off the Shelf: December Magazines

I (Alaina) was beginning to think we would never get this post up! It’s been just a  little crazy but here it is! We decided to do a cookie theme magazine review and so we each chose a cookie recipe from a few of the December issues. Really most of them had some great ideas for baking and entertaining with the exception of Cooking Light – sadly, it was a disappointing December issue. It lacked the festive inspiration that the other magazines achieved.

Food Network Magazine (Stephanie): This month’s Food Network Magazine is filled with lots of tasty looking recipes! There were several cookie recipes I hope to try like Cappuccino Pinwheels, Double Chocolate Crackles, and Golden Sesame Roll-ups. But I decided to try the Thumbprints. I adapted them very successfully to be gluten-free by using my favorite gf all-purpose flour mix and adding 1/2 tsp xanthan gum. They are like tiny butter cookies with a jam center.

THUMBPRINTS
(from Food Network Magazine, Dec. 2010)
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2 c. all-purpose flour (for gf: use scant 2 c. gf all-purpose mix + 1/2 tsp xanthan gum)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
12 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2/3 c. sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Assorted jams (orange, raspberry, strawberry, apricot), for filling
Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add half the dry ingredients and mix until just combined, then mix in the remaining dry ingredients. Knead a few times by hand to bring the dough together.

Roll teaspoonfuls of dough into balls and place about 1/2 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Make an indentation in the center of each ball with a small measuring spoon or the back of a pen. Fill each indentation with jam (a scant 1/8 tsp).

Bake until the edges of the cookies are goldent, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool 2 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Dust with confectioner’s sugar, if desired. Store in an airtight container up to 1 week.

 

 Saveur (Stephanie): These naturally gluten-free cookies, with the intriguing name of Basler Brunsli, are delicious! A specialty Christmas cookie from Northern Switzerland that apparently date from as far back as the Medieval times.  They reminded me of chocolate gingerbread or chocolate molasses cookies, though they have neither ginger nor molasses. I imagine these might become a Christmas tradition at our house!

BASLER BRUNSLI (Chocolate Almond Spice)
(from Saveur Magazine, Dec. 2010)
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8 oz whole blanched almonds
1 1/2 c. sugar, plus more for rolling
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cloves
2 egg whites, lightly beaten

Combine almonds and sugar in food processor and pulse to grind.  Add chocolate and pulse. Add spices and egg whites and pulse to form a dough.

Place dough between two pieces of parchment paper sprinkled with sugar. Roll to 1/8 inch thick. Cut out into desired shape. Place 1-inch apart on parchment paper lined baking sheets. Dry for 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 300°F. Bake for 12-15 minutes until slightly puffed.

Everday Food (Alaina) – This is just such a great little magazine and the December issue is no exception. They had many tasty recipes and on the cookie recipe, I would love to try the Gingerbread Trees w/Lemon Icing (I was out of molasses and thus didn’t get them made!). Spiced Cupcakes w/Citrus Glaze, Moroccan Chicken and Rice w/Chickpeas, Baked Tortellini w/Bacon, Grapefruit-White Wine Sparkler and Antipasti Pizza are a few of the other recipes that looked delicious!

I finally settled on the Holiday Shortbread Cookies – the chocolate variety. They were quite good and a little different. The coarse salt definitely goes with the popular salted chocolate (and caramel) flavors. Personally, I would have decreased the salt by 1/2 tsp. and added 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract. That aside, these were buttery, chocolatey, and addictive. They were perfectly crisp and looked pretty – I dusted them with powdered sugar for serving.

HOLIDAY SHORTBREAD COOKIES – Everyday Food, December 2010
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1 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 c. confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 tsp. coarse salt
2 c. flour
1/3 c. cocoa powder
6 oz. finely chopped bittersweet chocolate
1/3 c. coarse or sanding sugar (optional), for decorating

In food processor, combine butter, confectioners’ sugar, and salt. Process until smooth. Add flour and cocoa and pulse just until combined. Add chocolate and process until combined. From dough into an 8-inch round or square log; wrap tightly in plastic and freeze until firm, 30 minutes (or up to 1 month).

Preheat oven to 350 with racks in upper and lower thirds. Cut dough into 1/4 inch thick slices. Dip edges in sugar if desired and transfer to two parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until cookies are golden brown around edges. 15-18 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Let cookies cool 5 minutes on sheets. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Wrap cookies tightly with plastic and keep at room temperature up to 1 week.

Bon Appetit (Alaina) – It should come as no suprise that I really like this issue. I recently renewed by subscription to Bon Appetit for the next three years – it was a great deal and I have loved pretty much all of the recipes we’ve tried! I would love to tell you that I made the cake on the cover  (it’s gorgeous!) but alas, it has not made it’s way into my kitchen yet. 🙂 I did try the Curried Lentil Soup which will post about next week – yum!

This issue has some great looking recipes like Beet & Tangerine Salad w/Cranberry Dressing, Spinach Parmesan Souffle, Spicy Shrimp Quesadilla, Lamb Pita Sandwiches w/Kiwi Yogurt, & Double Chocolate Peppermint Crunch Cookies. I made the Lemon Sugar Cookies and they are super easy, pretty, and absolutely delicious! They will definitely be made again. I was impressed with the simplicity of the ingredients and yet each ingredient adds so much flavor and texture. If you like lemon, you will really enjoy these!

LEMON SUGAR COOKIES – Bon Appetit, December 2010
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3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
Colored sugar crystals or nonpareils

Using electric mixer, beat first 6 ingredients in large bowl. Beat in flour. Cover; chill dough until firm but not hard, about 2 hours (I actually made them right away and they worked just fine!).

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat 2 large rimmed baking sheets with nonstick spray. Pour sugars or nonpareils into separate bowls. Working with moistened hands and 1 level tablespoon at a time, shape dough into balls. Roll balls in colored sugars to coat; arrange on sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. Using bottom of glass or measuring cup, flatten each cookie to 2-inch round.

Bake cookies until golden on bottom, about 14 minutes. Cool on rack. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight.

Off The Shelf: April Magazine Review

With the arrival of April we can count on the fact that spring is really here — and I’m sure we all want our cooking to reflect that. I will admit that I want the food magazines to scream SPRING — loud enough to make me want to pull them off the rack and take them home. While there are a lot of good recipes in this month’s magazines, I felt there could have been a bit more “screaming”, especially on the covers.

Everyday Food (Heather) is once again filled with a number of very appealing recipes, although I felt that some of the recipes belonged more in the category of winter or fall comfort food, rather than fresh spring eating. For instance, Carmelized Onion and Lentil Soup, Tangy Chicken with Orzo Pilaf, Beef and Tomato Stew, Spiced Tomato Soup, and Using Leftover Mashed Potatoes.

On the flip side, there are some spring-specific recipes that look terrific: Roasted Marinated Lamb with Lemon and Rosemary Potatoes, Zucchini Pasta with Ricotta, Tilapia and Quinoa with Feta and Cucumber, Garlic and Chive Dip, Chopped Greek Salad, and Emeril’s Chicken-Patty Pockets. All in all, the magazine is worth your perusal.

We tried the Bean and Cheese Burritos  for a quick and easy (and child-friendly) dinner.

BEAN AND CHEESE BURRITOS
(Everyday Food April 2010)
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1 cup long-grain white rice (I used brown rice which has different cooking times)
1 3/4 c. low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 can (15 oz.) refried beans
4 flour tortillas (I used Trader Joe’s 100% whole wheat)
1/4 cup sour cream, plus more for serving
1 cup shredded cheese
1/2 head romaine lettuce, shredded
1/2 cup salsa, plus more for serving
avacado and cilantro, optional

Preheat oven to 350F. In a small saucepan, bring rice and broth to a boil over high. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 15 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes; fluff rice with a fork. (Alternatively, throw the rice and broth into your rice cooker!)

Meanwhile, in another small saucepan, warm beans and 1/4 cup water over low, stirring occasionally. Wrap tortillas in foil and place in oven to warm, about 10 minutes.

To assemble, divide beans, sour cream, rice, cheese, lettuce, and salsa among tortillas. For each tortilla, fold side closest to you over filling, then fold right and left sides toward center; tightly roll up burrito. Serve topped with more sour cream and salsa if desired.

Serves 4.

 Everyday with Rachael Ray (Heather)– I felt this magazine really could have flaunted spring just a bit more too, although they did do a good job of incorporating the season into all of their extra non-food columns. The 30-Minute Meals section does feature spring recipes such as Orecchiette with Pancetta and Peas, Denver Eggs-and-Potato Hash Sammies, and Leeky Salmon with Puff Pastry Toppers.

There is a fun section on dinner at American diners, complete with recipes for Disco Fries, White Chocolate Banana Cream Pie, Crunch-Berry Pancakes, Hobo Plate, and Curried Chicken Potpies. Other sections include Burger of the Month, Roast Chicken, How to Pull Off a Surprise Party, and Omelets for the Family.

I tried the Tortilla-Crusted Goat Cheese-and-Asparagus Quiche because I was so intrigued with using tortillas as the crust. The concept worked well, except that the tortilla was quite difficult to cut through to get a slice of the quiche onto a plate. The savings of time, not having to make a crust, might just be worth it though….

TORTILLA-CRUSTED GOAT CHEESE-AND-ASPARAGUS QUICHE
(Everyday with Rachael Ray April 2010)
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4 7-inch whole wheat tortillas (Trader Joe’s are terrific)
10 asparagus stalks, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
4 ounces sliced mushrooms (about 1 1/2 cups)
salt and pepper
1 (4 oz.) log goat cheese (I didn’t have this so used some shredded cheese instead)
3 eggs
1/2 cup plain yogurt, preferably Greek-style (I used regular)

Preheat the oven to 375F. In a greased 9-inch pie plate, overlap the tortillas to make a crust; place on a rimmed baking sheet.

Meanwhile, fill a large nonstick skillet a third of the way with salted water; bring to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook until crisp-tender, about 1 minute; drain, rinse under cold water and pat dry (or, use leftover asparagus!).

Wipe out the skillet, add the olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add the onion and mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and cook until the mushrooms are golden, about 3 minutes. Stir in the asparagus; season with salt and pepper. Spread evenly in the tortilla crust, then crumble in the cheese on top.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and yogurt and season with salt and pepper; pour into the tortilla crust. Bake on the baking sheet until just set in the center and lightly golden, about 30 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 4.

Bon Appetit — (Alaina) Bon Appetit has once again provided a wonderful assorment of recipes that feature spring produce including Korean Rice Bowl with Steak, Asparagus, and Fried Egg, Quick chicken Paella with Sugar Snap Peas, and Fresh Pea and Mint Soup. There is also a wonderful section on cakes. The pictures are stunning and inspiring. I think this magazine remains one of my favorites.

I chose to try the Moroccan Carrot Soup. It was amazing! Hands down the best carrot soup I’ve ever had. The flavors combined in a tantalizing and delicious bowl of creamy goodness.


MOROCCAN CARROT SOUP
(Bon Appetit, April 2010)
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2 Tb. (1/4 stick) butter
1 c. chopped white onion
1 lb. large carrots, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 22/3 cups)
2 1/2 c. low-salt chicken broth
1 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds (I used 1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin)
1 Tb. honey
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 c. plain yogurt, stirred to loosen

Melt butter in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 2 minutes. Mix in carrots. Add broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until carrots are very tender, about 20 minutes.

Stir cumin seeds in small skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes; cool. Finely grind in spice mill.

Remove soup from heat. Puree in batches in blender until smooth. Return to same pan. Whisk in honey, lemon juice, and allspice. Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle soup into bowls. Drizzle yogurt over; sprinkle generously with cumin.

Saveur — (Alaina) Recently, I qualified for a one-year subscription to Saveur magazine. It came just in time to include in this month’s magazine review. This is a delightful magazine. At first glance, it seemed like it didn’t have very many recipes but the more I read, the more recipes I realized there were. It also has beautiful photos, great articles and information, and wonderful recipes. I’m looking forward to more issues!

I enjoyed the way this magazine is layed out. It included an article and photos on Rome, Italy and then gave a lot of recipes to go with it – Cacio E Pepe, Gnocchi Alla Romana, Fagioli Tonno, and many more. It also had a section Taipei (Taiwanese Cooking) with very traditional and authentic recipes. I think that’s what I liked the most – it seems like they remained true to the cultures they featured.

Cardamom was featured in the April issue and so I decided to try the Cardamom-Ginger Crunch. It’s a shortbread with a candy-like layer on top. Cardamom is a distinct flavor with a citrusy taste. In my opinion, it’s an aquired flavor. I like it, I don’t love it. My dad and my youngest son loved it and the rest of us liked it with the exception of my oldest two. I halved this recipe.


CARDAMOM-GINGER CRUNCH
(Saveur, April 2010)
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2 cups unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing
1 cup sugar
3 cups flour, sifted
11 tsp. ground ginger
3 1⁄2 tsp. ground cardamom
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 1⁄2 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 tbsp. golden syrup or dark corn syrup

1. Heat oven to 375°. Grease a 9″ x 13″ baking dish; set aside. Put 18 tbsp. butter and sugar in a large bowl; beat with a handheld mixer on medium until fluffy. Add flour, 3 tsp. ginger, 1 tsp. ground cardamom, baking powder, and 1 tsp. salt; mix until incorporated but still crumbly. Transfer mixture to reserved dish; press flat with your hands. Bake until shortbread is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let cool.

2. In a 1-qt. saucepan over medium heat, combine remaining butter, ginger, cardamom, and salt and the confectioners’ sugar and syrup. Bring to a boil and pour over shortbread; cool. Cut into 2″ rectangles.

MAKES 48 PIECES

Entertaining 101: Holiday Tea

I love a good tea party! Whether it is impromptu with my children with only cups of tea and toast, or planned a few days in advance with a friend or two, or a big, fancy affair with lots of people and a buffet full of tea foods. Christmas is a perfect time to bring out the teacups and sit down with someone special to drink in a few moments of the passing season.

So many of the holiday foods are well-suited for a tea party: cookies, cheese ball and crackers, chocolate truffles, muffins, cranberry-orange tea loaf, squares of gingerbread, chicken salad sandwiches with dried cranberries, cut pineapple sprinkled with lime zest, homemade candies or chocolate dipped pretzels, etc.  Holiday teas abound too. Think Gingerbread, Earl Grey, Orange Spice, Constant Comment (which now comes in decaf!!!), Chai, Sugar Cookie, or Candy Cane Lane.

Several recipes that I particularly like around the holidays are Gingerbread Muffins, Cranberry Bread, and Scottish Shortbread. Every year I watched my mother make her ritual batch of shortbread, using the handwritten recipe card from her grandmother who had immigrated from Scotland. It is simple but rich and is a perfect accompaniment to tea.

Gingerbread muffins are a wonderful invention. Doesn’t everyone want to smell gingerbread scents wafting from their oven? Muffins are easy to make and easy to serve with the same delightful aroma of real gingerbread.

GINGERBREAD MUFFINS
(cooksrecipes.com)

1 ½ c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. cloves
¼ tsp. ginger
¼ tsp. nutmeg
1 egg
1/3 c. oil
¼ c. molasses
1/3 c. sugar
½ c. boiling water

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line muffin tin. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg. In another bowl, beat egg, oil, molasses and sugar, mixing well. Pour mixture into flour mixture. Mix until just moistened; add boiling water and mix until just blended. Fill muffin tins 2/3 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until muffins are done. Makes 12.

(Note: the pillow-like object behind the teapot is a “tea cozy”. You can find them for sale here.)

SCOTTISH SHORTBREAD
(Grandmother Christina Winterbottom)

6 c. flour (if you like more texture, you can substitute 1 cup of flour for 1 cup of rice flour)
1 c. sugar
2 c. butter, softened (I prefer salted butter here)

Mix the flour and sugar together then incorporate the butter – this must be done with hands to soften the butter into the flour mixture. Mix with hands until soft and doughy. Depending on the softness of your butter, this may take 5-15 minutes.

Spread dough in a 10×15” pan and prick evenly with a fork (allowing the fork to touch the bottom of the pan).

Bake 1 hour at 325F until edges just begin to golden – cut into 1-inch squares or 2-inch fingers while hot.

CRANBERRY BREAD
(bowlofmush.blogspot.com)

2 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 c. orange juice
2 Tbsp. butter or vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. grated orange zest
1 egg, beaten
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 c. roughly chopped fresh cranberries
1/2 c. chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan. Chop the cranberries and walnuts and set aside.

In a large bowl mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir in the orange juice, orange zest, egg, vanilla and butter. Fold in the chopped cranberries and walnuts.

Spread the mixture evenly in the greased loaf pan and bake in the oven at 350F for 55 minutes. Allow to cool on a rack for at least 15 minutes. Will cut best if left to rest for several hours.