Mom makes fancy shortbread
For dessert tonight I baked a bar cookie from Baking With Julia, which is actually written by Dorie Greenspan. She calls this “Hungarian Shortbread”, and it is basically two layers of egg-enriched shortbread, sandwiched with homemade rhubarb jam. I halved the recipe, partly because I only had a few sad stalks of late-season rhubarb in the back yard, and partly because, for reasons I won’t go into, I need to be extremely skinny this weekend and didn’t want to have any left over after dinner was finished.
Now Ms. Greenspan rhapsodizes about how easy this recipe is, but the way she makes it is not easy! She has you freezing the cookie dough and then grating it into the pan. I made it that way the first time, and then thought “Why?!” It made a mess all over the counter and wasn’t any better than making shortbread the traditional way. What I do is make it in two batches in the food processor, just until crumbly, then pat the crumbs into the pan, more firmly for the first layer and leaving the top layer quite crumbly. I’ll copy the recipe as given in the cookbook, though, and you can judge for yourself.
- 1 pound rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water (I used orange juice)
- 1/2 vanilla bean (I didn’t have one and just used vanilla)
Place the rhubarb, sugar, and water in medium saucepan. Split vanilla bean, scrape the seeds into the pan, and toss in the pod. Bring to a simmer over low heat, and cook, stirring often, until the rhubarb softens and almost seems to melt. This should take about 10 minutes depending on the rhubarb. Remove the pan from heat and discard the vanilla bean. Cool jam to room temperature. Jam may be made ahead of time and refrigerated; bring to room temperature before using. You may substitute a cup of good-quality jam or preserves but it won’t be the same.
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 sticks (1 pound) butter, at room temperature
- 4 large egg yolks
- 2 cups sugar (I think this is too much and use less)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla (my addition)
Whisk the dry ingredients together in a bowl and set aside. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the butter on high speed until it is pale and fluffy. Add the yolks, sugar, and vanilla and beat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is light. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until incorporated.
Turn the dough out onto a work surface and cut in half. Shape each half into a ball and wrap in plastic. Freeze for about 30 minutes, until firm.
Preheat oven to 350º. Remove one ball of dough from freezer and using the side of box grater with largest holes, grate into 9X12-inch baking pan. Pat the dough gently just to get it into the corners. Spread with jam. Grate the remaining dough over the jam and press it lightly to distribute it evenly. Bake the shortbread for about 40 minutes, or until golden brown.
As soon as you remove it from the oven, dust the top of the shortbread heavily with confectioner’s sugar. Cool to room temperature before cutting into bars, squares, or rectangles.
If you like shortbread you will love this; the addition of the egg yolk makes it extra rich and delicious, and the tartness of the jam is the perfect counterpoint.