Theresa Karanik and I embarked on a Christmas cookie adventure. Shortbread. Theresa made Rosemary shortbread last year and gave it for gifts in pretty cellophane bags tied with a ribbon. This year I was invited to participate. Oh joy! We made seven batches some Rosemary with fleur de sel and some lemon with fleur de sel. The shortbread is now being packed up as gifts in pretty cellophane bags – just like the one I got from Theresa last year as a gift.
Theresa is one of my favorite people. She is super smart and funny and always a good friend even when she’s not in the mood. She is a dedicated and devoted therapist. She works at Home Boy Industries with Father Greg Boyle and if you don’t know what that is and who Father Greg is look it/him up on the internet and then make a donation.
Theresa and I have a regular Saturday morning walking date that has evolved into a short walk and long coffee (decaf and during the holiday season hers involves eggnog in the latte). One of our favorite holiday past times is the Christmas carol medley. Just imagine it. It is hysterical. I performed it for her once and she got it immediately and since she is Catholic she knows so many more Christmas songs than I do that her medley now puts mine to shame. I might have to switch to a Chanukah medley but I’m not sure that there are enough Chanukah songs or maybe I’ll just laugh as she sings.
Another thing about Theresa (there are so many things) is that she always has a good recipe. Some of my best recipes have come from her and have been featured in this blog in the past. This recipe is from Melissa Clark, NYT food editor, and it is an excellent, flexible, forgiving, and versatile recipe. I highly recommend it.
Rosemary Shortbread (-Melissa Clark, NYT) Preheat oven to 325°
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp plus
1 pinch kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted cold butter, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 to 2 tsp rosemary, chestnut or other dark, full-flavored honey (optional and I didn’t use it!)
Heat oven to 325 degrees.
In a food processor, pulse together flour, sugar, rosemary and salt. Add butter, and honey if using it, and pulse to fine crumbs. Pulse a few more times until some crumbs start to come together, but don’t over process. Dough should not be smooth. (But then Melissa Clark sent Theresa an email – in response to one sent to her by Theresa that says:
“From: Melissa Clark Subject: Re: Rosemary Shortbreads Date: December 18, 2016 at 1:49:28 PM PST To: Theresa Karanik
Hi there- process more, not less! That’s what makes them hold together. Next time, let the mixture really come together into a lump. Just don’t overprocess – the dough shouldn’t get oily or warm, which will give you greasy shortbread. And let me know how it goes (less processing = more flakiness, which is good for pies but not necessarily good for shortbread, overprocessing = greasy cookies. Look for something in between). Happy baking! Best, Melissa” [that’s a real email by the way so from the likes of it I would say – process until it turns into a ball])
Press dough into an ungreased 8 or 9 inch square baking pan or a 9-inch pie pan. Prick dough all over with a fork. Bake until golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes for a 9 inch pan, 45 to 50 minutes for 8-inch. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Cut into squares, bars or wedges while still warm.
This is a really flexible and forgiving recipe. The ingredients are delicious. We did some batches without rosemary and instead used 1 ½ tsp lemon zest. The result was delicious. I am going to experiment with substituting 1/3 cup flour for whole grain flour (red fife I think or einkorn). Also, the following notes are from the original article.
Plain Shortbread: Use this as the base for the variations. Omit rosemary and honey. Vanilla Bean Shortbread: Split a vanilla bean in half lengthwise and use back of a knife to scrape out pulp. Pulse pulp into flour-sugar mixture before adding butter. In addition, you could also add up to 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract with the butter. Citrus Shortbread: Add 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon, lime or orange zest with the flour. Add up to 1 teaspoon orange blossom water with butter if desired. These are classic with poppy seeds. Nut Shortbread: Grind 1/2 cup toasted nuts in food processor with flour before adding remaining ingredients. Flavor with spices, citrus or rosemary if desired. Spice or Seed Shortbread: Add up to 1 teaspoon spices such as ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg or cardamom, or seeds such as caraway or anise (or up to 3 tablespoons poppy or sesame seeds). Or, add up to 1/4 teaspoon allspice or mace, with or without a pinch of ground cloves. You can use a spice by itself, or in any combination you like, but don’t use them all at once. Brown or Maple Sugar Shortbread: Substitute 1/3 cup dark brown sugar or maple sugar for granulated sugar. This is especially good if you also use nuts. Add spices, seeds, citrus flavorings or rosemary if desired. Cornmeal or Whole Wheat Shortbread: Substitute up to 1/2 cup cornmeal or whole wheat flour for 1/2 cup all-purpose flour. Add spices, seeds, citrus flavorings or rosemary if desired.