Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Shortbread often comes with a warning: don't overwork the dough, otherwise the gluten becomes over developed and your cookies will be tough. Similar precautionary statements precede many recipes for scones, biscuits, quick breads, rolled cookies, and pie crusts.
I have been so thoroughly imbued with the fear of over-mixing and over-kneading that I usually avoid scones and shortbread altogether. I know that high amounts of fat and additions like cornstarch or rice flour can make a flakier, "shorter" dough. I have tried multiple mixing, cutting, slicing, and scoring techniques and still don't quite understand how to get the product I want.
I tend to execute these recipes with a certain amount of paranoia. I tried the green tea cookies from Amai. I stared at the flour and butter mixture as it whirled around in the mixer, and by the time I stopped wondering if the dough was supposed to fully come together or look damp, I had over mixed it beyond all believing.
The best shortbread I ever had was from Tartine in San Francisco. It was extremely light and crumbly and practically melted in my mouth. I think I ate 3-4 pieces in one sitting. When the cookbook came out, I tried making the recipe and ended up with underbaked, falling-apart shortbread that ended up in the trash.
This lavender shortbread recipe from the LA Times made me want to try again. Sadly, I still couldn't get my dough to come together. I flattened it out inside of a ziplock bag, chilled it, and sliced it into squares. I had to put the tray back in the oven several times because I kept pulling the cookies out too early.
In the end they tasted good, even if they didn't look as delicate as the ones in the newspaper. They didn't have the texture I wanted, but the flavor was good and I think most lavender lovers will enjoy them. Give them a dusting of powdered sugar, if you like.
Akasha's lavender shortbread
from The Los Angeles Times
Adapted from Akasha Richmond of Akasha Restaurant, Bar & Bakery in Culver City.
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/4 cup (loosely-packed, or 4 ounces) powdered sugar, plus additional for dusting
1 tablespoon dried lavender blossoms
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups flour
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, cream the butter with the sea salt, powdered sugar and lavender until light and fluffy.
2. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and beat until combined, about 10 seconds. Fold in the flour by hand, mixing lightly just until incorporated and being careful not to over-mix.
3. Remove the dough from the bowl and form it into a log 9 inches long and 2 inches thick. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 2 hours, or until firm enough to slice.
4. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap the log, and cut into one-fourth-inch slices. Place them on parchment-lined baking sheets, and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until set (the cookies should not color).
5. Cool the cookies (still on the pans) on a rack. Then dust lightly with powdered sugar. They will keep for a few days in a container.
at 1:12 PM