Monday, December 24, 2007

Cookie Party: Austrian Shortbread

Whenever I go to visit my parents during the holiday season, I always check to see if any of my good high school friends are around and are interested in getting together. Two of them were home for Christmas, so we met at my parents house for an afternoon. This was a great opportunity for me to try out some of the cookies I'd been reading about recently (and not so recently). A great recipe posted in December appeared on Smitten Kitchen. It was for Austrian Raspberry Shortbread. The pictures accompanying the recipe made me salivate, and my mom's house was the perfect setting for making it, since my mom owns a food processor and I (due to space constraints) do not. This was definitely a winner - even my mom, who at first declared it was too doughy (she would have used more jam and less dough) warmed up to it later. I sent my friends home with some of the leftovers, and one of the moms later sent my mom a card expressing how much she had liked it.

Austrian Raspberry Shortbread
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 lb (4 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
4 egg yolks
2 cups granulated sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
Optional additions: 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1 teaspoon lemon zest (I stupidly forgot to add either one of these)
1 cup raspberry jam, at room temperature
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar

1. Cream the butter in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or using a hand mixer) until soft and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and mix well.

2. Mix the granulated sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt together. Add to the butter and egg yolk mixture and mix just until incorporated and the dough starts to come together. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and form into two balls. Wrap each ball in plastic wrap and freeze at least 2 hours or overnight (or as long as a month, if you like).

3. Heat the oven to 350°F.

4. Remove one ball of dough from the freezer and coarsely grate it by hand or with the grating disk in a food processor into the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking pan or a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Make sure the surface is covered evenly with shreds of dough. (One suggestion I have is to first cut the dough up into smaller pieces with a big knife or cleaver, since you cannot put the whole big ball of dough into the food processor. Cutting it up becomes much easier if you don't do it as soon as you take it out of the freezer.)

5. With a piping bag with a wide tip or a zip-lock bag with the corner cut off, squeeze the jam over the surface as evenly as possible, to within ½ inch of the edge all the way around. (Be careful not to cut too big of a corner off the zip-lock bag, like I did, or the jam will come out in too thick a stream.) Remove the remaining dough from the freezer and coarsely grate it over the entire surface.

6. Bake until lightly golden brown and the center no longer wiggles, 50 to 60 minutes (or longer). As soon as the shortbread comes out of the oven, dust with confectioners’ sugar.

7. Cool on a wire rack, then cut in the pan with a serrated knife.


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