Okay, so my new precious happens to be shortbread. My first foray into it was an unmitigated disaster of which we shall never, ever speak. EVER. My second attempt, though, was more ambitious and about twenty different kinds of awesome. SERIOUSLY. I kept taste-testing the finished product and telling myself how ridiculously brilliant I am. And I wasn't even exaggerating!
Anyway, here are four different kinds of shortbread I made. I have some fancy ceramic shortbread pans, but nine-inch cake pans (not the dark ones!) would do in a pinch.
Basic Shortbread Recipe (from Kingarthurflour.com)
1 c unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c granulated sugar
2 c flour
1. Preheat oven to 325*F.
2. Cream the sugar and butter together. Add the flour and mix until it resembles a fine cornmeal. (I start with a wooden spoon for the creaming and the initial flour mixing, and then I just use my hands.) Don't overmix! If you do, your shortbread will be gross and ungood.
3. Butter the baking dish, ceramic or otherwise. Press the shortbread dough into the pan evenly.
4. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the edges start to turn a sandy color. Be careful not to overbake! If you do, your shortbread will be (unsurprisingly) gross and ungood.
5. Remove to a wire rack to cool in the pan for a good 15 minutes or so, then turn out of the pan to finish cooling. I put a bit of parchment paper over the wire rack so that weird stripes don't get pressed into the bottom of the shortbread, but that's not really a big deal.
6. Cut while shortbread is still slightly warm. When the shortbread is completely cooled, store in an airtight container at room temperature. It gets better as it ages, and it can last for a week or longer in the right kind of container and at the right temp.
But I can never be satisfied with a base recipe, can I? OH, NO. NEVER!
So I made four different kinds. The variations are as follows:
Lemon Ginger Shortbread
Add the zest of two lemons and 1/4 c crystallized ginger pieces to the dough. I mixed the zest and ginger pieces in with the sugar and butter so I wouldn't overmix once I added in the flour. It worked great!
Cherry Chocolate Chip Shortbread
Add 1/2 c dried cherries and 1/2 c mini chocolate chips to the dough. Again, I added these to the creamed sugar and butter so the dough wouldn't be overmixed when the flour was added.
You could always go with a smaller amount of chocolate chips, if you want, around 1/3 or even 1/4 c. I haven't tried this with the cherries soaked in coconut rum yet, but that's my next experiment. I'll let you know how it goes.
Update: It goes awesomely! You just have to be sure to drain the cherries very well so there's no excess moisture to mess up the shortbread dough's texture.
Orange Spice Shortbread
This one's my favorite so far. Add the zest of one largeish orange, slightly less than 1/4 tsp cinnamon, and a small pinch of ginger. Since this is mostly dry stuff, you could add it in with the flour. To make these even more awesome, when they've cooled, I suggest dipping the bottoms in dark chocolate. Divine!
Vanilla Shortbread Dipped in Chocolate
Add 1/2 to 3/4 tsp vanilla extract to the butter and sugar as you cream them together. When everything is cooled and cut into its individual pieces, dip the bottoms in dark chocolate. Om nom nom...
So, there you have it: shortbread four ways. I'm going to experiment with the coconut rum cherries and with a maple ginger shortbread over the next week, and if they turn out well, I'll post those recipes, too.
Happy baking, all!