Monday, January 04, 2010

Saturday, December 5th, 2009 - Peppercorn Shortbread Coins and Cranberry Walnut Shortbread cookies

Times are tough and it's painfully evident around Christmas. Even moreso at Christmas at the office. Gone are the hay days of big, lavish, company paid Christmas lunches and parties. Actually, I missed them all together. Even when I was living in London, we only got a 10 pound voucher and my team went on a pubcrawl. In London, pints are fairly inexpensive so it went a long way.

My team here in Vancouver, has no allowance for Christmas celebration so we're having a potluck. My chintzy boss is brought 2 l bottles of soda and a box of chocolate. I mean really! The rest of us actually put some effort into it. There were pasta salads, muffins, samosas, fruit plates... I made shortbread. It is Christmas and that's what I do. I used to also make truffles but I ended up eating most of them as my family opts for the Quality Street Tins instead. Bah, they don't know what they're missing :-D

I've not made shortbread for a couple of years because I end up doing it all, including decorating all by hand. This year I had my handydandy Kitchenaid mixer so it went fairly quickly, but for the decorating.

These two batches I made here. I didn't decorate them. I made another big batch in Toronto when I went home with Walnuts, Pecans and Kaluha.... decorated!

These both were amazing cookies. I discovered something interesting you should note. White granulated sugar is sweeter in cookies. I used a light brown/white mix. Straight out of the oven, they weren't that sweet. Of course, they develop over time. Stored with parchement/wax paper in a good tin, shortbread will last for over a month if they last that long. And with all the butter and brown sugar, they get better and better everyday. I don't know the science, perhaps they're going 'sour' but thats the distinctive shortbread taste.

Bring 1 lb (4 sticks) butter to room temperature. It doesn't have to get completely soft. A few hours is enough and even better for rolling later.

Preheat oven 330F. The racks should be at the 1/3 and 2 /3 positions. ie. two racks evenly spaced but not too high or too low.

Peppercorn Shortbread

2 sticks butter (1cup)
1/4 c white sugar
1/3 c light brown sugar
Beat until smooth

1/2 t fresh black pepper
1/2 t fresh red pepper (from pepper corns not flakes)
1/2 t fresh white pepper
1/2 t fresh pink pepper
1/2 t fresh green pepper (from pepper corns not jalapenos :-D)
If you do not have these, then use what you have to have 2t fresh pepper + 1t for garnish
2 c unbleached flour
1 t salt
Mix all the dry on a flexible cutting board or in a bowl.
Slowly add to the butter/sugar while its stirring on low.

When fully incorporated, turn out onto some parchment paper or plastic wrap. Do it in halves and you'll need a piece about 2 ft long per half. You're going to roll into logs along the long edge. Do it in quarters if you like. I didn't know how much I'd get until it was too late :-D

Spread the lumps of dough out evenly along the wrap, this will help the rolling later. Roll smooth until you have a log about an inch in diameter or the size of a 1 dollar Loonie coin. Repeat. Place the logs on a baking sheet and put outside or in your fridge until cold. 1 hour is good, longer if you have the time.

Slice in 1/2 cm or 1/4 inch slices. Spread evenly on baking sheets lined with Parchment Paper (NOT WAX PAPER) or silpat. Sprinkle with pepper if you like. Bake for 10, turn the pans and then 5-7 more. I do two trays where one is baking while I'm slicing the second. I swap the tray on the higher rack for the lower at the half mark to encourage eveness. Just lightly brown. This will make several dozen cookies. Cool on racks and place in wax/parchment paper lined tins. They are fabulous and surprising. I got rave reviews an requests for the recipe which I adapted from Martha Stewart.


Cranberry Walnut Vanilla Shortbread

1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1/4 c white sugar
1/2 c light brown sugar
2 vanilla beans split and stripped of the tiny beans.
I used 2 beans because we have dozens we bought in Bali for nearly nothing.
Beat until smooth.

2 c flour
1 t salt (fine, course salt will give you chunky saltiness)
Mix all the dry on the flexi cutting board or in a bowl.
Add slowly to the butter. When it's just incorporated add:
3/4 c chopped walnuts (flexible but at least 1/2 cup)
1/2 c dried cranberries

Mix for 15-30s, just until the fruit looks evenly spread throughout.

Similar to the peppercorn, spread on 2 ft long pieces of plastic wrap or parchement paper. Shape into rectangles, roughly 5 cm by 7 cm, 2"x3". Chill until firm. Slice in 3/4 cm slices and spread out on parchment lined (not WAX) baking sheets. I do two trays staggered so I'm slicing while one is baking and the next goes in as one is about to be turned at the 10 minute mark. 10 minutes, turn and bake 10 minutes more. I also swap the higher tray for the lower tray for more eveness. Cool on racks and keep in tight tin with wax / parchment papper.


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