07 July 2014

Fly with it

Everything about now seems to be changing. I feel, approaching a certain age, no longer able to avoid questions. Things shift on a dime, people cancel, you cancel, jobs get snatched the day before your interview, the elderly fall, people leave the earth prematurely. The trains stop underground. It rains. 

It rained on the Fourth of July but there were fireworks. Probably the best fireworks I will have seen in some time. Sitting on the edge of the Hudson River Jersey Side in front of the Statue of Liberty, it had become a clear night. I wasn't sure if the ground would be wet so I negated bringing a towel, which I regretted upon arrival. People had towels. No one cares if it has rained in the metropolitan area. Things go on. My thoughts turned to negative nagging... shoulda brought it. But the man behind us offered me a chair. Our friends offered Ed a nylon bag for sitting. We were taken care of. We had salted caramel ice cream cones. Fly with it, I keep telling myself. Laugh at it. Go on.

One of my favorite cookies to make is shortbread. For one, I like cutting it. Either out, or into straight lines. With no eggs it's a short whirl with your mixer and a chill or even a freeze away from cookies you can stack in a jar. They're the ones you don't have to worry about. They last a little. Today's recipe is a tender one. With orange zest, rosemary, salted butter and cornmeal, it's a fragrance I'd like to bottle. With dough on the softer side, be sure to give it a proper chill (see my notes below). If it needs a little more chilling after cutting, give it that. If it needs a few more moments to brown the edges in the oven, give it that. Fly with it. I hope you enjoy having these around as much as I do.

Orange-Rosemary-Cornmeal Shortbread

via Remedial Eating who adapted it from Claudia Fleming

Notes: I made a half recipe of the original, which is reflected below, and I also included grams measurements. A scale is helpful for all baking and inexpensive. Available online or at Bed Bath and Beyond, they'll run you under $30. I'm currently using this one. Also: I make my own powdered sugar when needed, by combining 1T cornstarch to 1C sugar in a coffee grinder (in batches) until fine. but you can use store-bought powdered sugar. Also, my kitchen has been hot and the dough was feeling a tad soft (which also makes the cookies lovely and tender) so I found chilling the dough between  rolling and cutting and just before baking, did the trick to make the dough easier to handle and transferring the cold pricked squares to the baking sheet was a cinch. Lastly, dough can be refrigerated up to 5 days, or frozen well-wrapped, a month. Thaw in fridge before use. I fit about 15 rectangles a sheet and found I got the best browning when baking one sheet at a time in the center rack. If you want to bake more though, use 2 pans at a time in the top and bottom thirds and rotate just over halfway through. You may need another minute or two that way.

113 g/1 stick salted butter, slightly softened
45 grams / 6 Tbs powdered sugar
1 heaped teaspoon orange zest, freshly grated
1/2 heaping teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
~ scant 30 grams / 3 Tb cornmeal, regular or medium work
110 grams /  3/4 cup + 2 Tb unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
Raw sugar, for sprinkling, optional


Measure and whisk flour and cornmeal together. Set aside. In a stand mixer with the paddle, cream butter, powdered sugar, orange zest, salt and rosemary, until light and fluffy, 1-2 minutes. Scrape sides, add vanilla, and beat again to combine.  Scrape sides, add flour and cornmeal, and mix just to combine.  Scrape dough onto a length of plastic wrap, flatten to a rough rectangle, an inch high, wrap well, and chill 2 hours, or overnight, or a few days or freeze for later. 

When ready to bake: Oven to 300.

Line a sheet pan or two with parchment and let dough sit out if it has been very chilled, about 10 minutes. Very lightly flour beneath and on top of the dough, (MN note: I did so lightly but also rolled between two pieces of parchment). Roll out to just under 1/4 inch thick rectangle as best as possible. Trim sides to form straight edges (you can lightly re-roll to get another rectangle). If dough is a bit soft at this point, just move it flat to the fridge or freezer for a few minutes. Use a knife and ruler or bench knife with a ruler  to make cuts 1 1/2 inches by 1 inch and prick three times with a fork.

At this point, I found it helpful again to transfer the dough to the fridge or freezer for a few minutes.

With an offset spatula, transfer scored cookies to baking sheet, leaving just an inch or so between as they don't spread.

Bake 18-25 minutes, rotating trays about 11 minutes in, front to back and top to bottom, until cookies are no longer glossy on top, gold at the edges and underneath.Cool on sheet 10 minutes on rack, then cool on rack completely. Stored airtight they'll last more than a week.

Yield: A few dozen