Yesterday someone reminded me that I shouldn't be giving away recipes if I plan on opening a bakery someday. This comment has burned in my head from the beginning. While I do someday dream of opening some kind of little cafe or midnight munchie spot, I had to face the reality that I'm not really revealing secrets to very many people at the moment. And honestly, I don't know if you can plagiarize a recipe.
I like to make a point of giving credit where credit is due. I will never attempt to pass someone else's idea or recipe off as my own. In fact, I have been known to do quite the opposite and not even take credit for my own ideas. (Just in case they aren't well received. Kinda yellow-bellied, huh? I'm working on it.) While I am not naive enough to think other people aren't capable of stealing recipes, I am naive enough to think there isn't much to be made from actually stealing one. Besides, I'm stealing and adapting from others anyway. What is that quote about there not being anything new under the sun?
That being said, our next recipe comes to us from the Mrs. Field's Cookie Book again. Her recipe is for Chocolate-Glazed Shortbread Cookies. I love this cookie recipe because the shortbread isn't dry or crumbly like traditional Scottish shortbread. It's soft and moist, as long as you don't overcook it, of course.
I took this little cookie and turned it into something different. Chocolate is fine on occasion, but I'm more of a fruity person. Trust me! And in life, I'm good with fruity as long as you hold the nuts.
Many moons ago I used to take tiny bits of this dough and gently press it into a floured round tablespoon measure, poke a hole, add some jam and close it up. Flip it out on a baking sheet, poke some more holes in it with the tines of a fork in a nice design and bake gently. They looked like little pillows of perfection.
I have since become a little less patient. I now roll out some dough, drop a bit of jam on a spot, place more rolled dough over top and cut with a fluted cookie cutter. All in all, it's not quite the same and I long for the motivation to make these guys the way I used to. Maybe next time.
Soft Shortbread Cookie
1 1/2 cups salted butter (softened)
1 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
3 cups flour
Mix butter until fluffy.
Add sugar, mix more.
Add vanilla, mix more.
Add flour, mix gently.
Divide dough into two pieces.
Wrap separately, pressing dough into discs as you wrap and refrigerate for about 2 hours.
Roll out on lightly floured board.
Place cut cookies on baking sheet and bake at 325°F for 16-18 minutes.
Remove immediately from sheet to cool on flat surface or rack.
Now, let's talk about technique. I figured maybe this would come out during a sugar cookie blog, but since we haven't gotten there yet, I guess it's leaking out now. In the food realm, I have a couple rules that I think need to be followed. Strictly. One of them was described in this Little Baking Rant. One of my other HUGE complaints is discoloration.
I apologize in advance. I'm not trying to hurt anyone's feelings here, but a light cookie should be just that. Light. Shortbread, like this recipe and most of all, sugar cookies, should never - ever - have color. If the edges are the least bit golden, they're overdone. I guess if you're one of those weird people who likes crunchy cookies - go for it - but I'm now promoting myself to an authority on this subject alone and suggesting, for your own good, don't share those cookies with anyone. Harsh, yes, but it had to be said.
I admit that having the patience to closely watch a sheet of cookies in the oven for that perfect moment when they're no longer gooey in the middle but before they start to crisp is taxing. Keep an eye on the center of your cookie. Does it still look wet? Then it can go another minute or two. You can usually see tiny bubbles of butter boiling in the cookie if you look close enough. You want to wait for that butter to evaporate from the surface. It can be a real pain in the tush, but I think it's so worth it.
This is why I usually only bake for special occasions or people. I have to be willing to put in that full labor of love. Cookies are not just something you can whip out just for the heck of it. Meditation, a good cup of relaxing tea, maybe even a bath beforehand can put you in the right state of mind for creating perfect cookies. If you're rushed or distracted, I say hold off. By all means, if you have a tray that doesn't turn out just right, it happens to all of us, you just save them for yourself or the kids! Not to suggest that you only give your crappiest cookies to the kids, but usually, they don't care as much. I'm mostly talking about presentation for friends and extended family or other adults you're sharing with.
One of the ways cookies end up browned on the bottom (or more, heaven forbid!) is when you roll dough out unevenly or place cookies from different "roll out sessions" on the same sheet. The thinner ones cook faster, right? Our lovely Chef Peter taught us this marvelous trick! Probably my most prized piece of information from all my baking classes. Simple, but truly genius.
Go grab 2 plastic hangers from your closet. Wipe them down, bleach them, whatever you feel comfortable with. Lay them flat on your rolling surface with the long flat sides facing each other and place some of your dough in between. Lay them close enough that the edges of your rolling pin hang just over the hangers. (I need to get some pictures in here!) Do you see where I'm going though?
Use the hangers as a way to keep your rolling pin from smooshing your dough too much. It means you have to roll out in smaller batches, but it guarantees consistency. Which we all know is about the only place I'm capable of being consistent - so it's really important to me! Also, when picking out your cutters, choose some that are approximately the same size. Or at least place cookies of the same basic size on the same tray. If you do have some that are smaller, place them in the center of the tray for baking. It won't keep them from crisping, but it may help a tiny bit.
You can make the jam filled cookies with either of the methods I mentioned above. There is also the simple "thumb print" method, but I find the jam dries out and becomes a little chewy unless it's enclosed. Again, if you like that sort of thing - go for it. We all have very different tastes so whatever you're used to or like best is how you should proceed.
Cookies are about enjoyment. Pure and simple.