Sunday, October 5, 2008

twice-baked shortbread + other lost recipes

twice-baked shortbread

I spend much too much time trying to figure out why some recipes we try out burn a hole in my laptop until I can get them up on the site–sometimes, even a day seems too long to keep something from you, like last week’s soup–and why others can linger for months. Sometimes, I’m just not that into them, but don’t want to admit it publicly and perhaps hurt their feelings, or even yours, if you happen to fall for them. Other times, the pictures just came out horrendously, and oh, we all know an ugly-looking recipe is a hard sell (sorry, big-name food magazine whose October cover picture actually convinced me to not buy it).

But then there are times that it is none of the above–the recipe was good, the photos were acceptable and there’s not a single good reason for me not to pass the word on, and yet, three months later, here is this Zucchini Rice Gratin. So, without further ado, bear with me as I clean some stuff off my hard drive today; I might want to try these again before I insist that you laminate and frame these recipes, but it doesn’t mean that they were any less worth sharing.

roasting tomatoesonions and rice, nomzucchini rice gratinzucchini rice gratin

Zucchini Rice Gratin: Caramelized onions, rice, lightly roasted tomatoes and zucchini layered in a baking dish with grated parmesan and oh my gosh, this was really delicious. Small problem, though, I was rushing when I cooked it; rushing like crazy. We were going out of town the next day and I had bought the ingredients many days before and I was physically unable to let them go to waste. So, I rushed. And well, I forgot to add the egg, I mean eggs. The result? Tasted good to me, but I can’t help but wonder how much better it would have been with some more cohesiveness. Tomatoes aren’t looking that great these days, so I suspect it will be a while before I find out. [Recipe]

the best tomatoes, evertomato salad with tahini dressing

Tomato and Onion Salad with Tahini Dressing: Just days after I lightly chided New York Times food writer Mark Bittman for having recipes that could befuddle the home cook, he put a clear as day combination on his Bitten blog that I quite liked. We were past the midway point in tomato season by then; I was still a-smitten with this summer’s batch as I had been in any other year past, but I was getting bored of my go-to tomato salad (any vinegar, olive oil and some flaky salt). Tahini dressing seemed like a great way to bridge tomatoes into fall, and it was even better on the most amazing tomatoes I have ever bought from an organic farm on the North Fork the weekend before. Seriously, these tomatoes were so good that my tomato season ended the day I ate this salad. It wasn’t going to get any better than this, so I thought I should quit while I was ahead. Consider yourself warned on that one. [Recipe]

peeling sweet potatoescooking sweet potatoesdiced sugar snapssweet potato salad

Sweet Potato Salad: Well, here’s a lesson for you: Don’t buy sweet potatoes in August. They won’t be very good. Still, I already had fall on the brain when I wanted to make one last potato salad this summer and the notion of a sweet potato one seemed like a great way to bridge the seasons. That it had a spicy peanut dressing didn’t hurt either, because my favorite things to do with squash or sweet potatoes is to pair them with something with a kick. The end result, however, was as could be expected from sweet potatoes bought months before they were in season–bland. Yet, since everything else about it was tasty, it leads me to believe that if I had cooled my heels another couple months, this could have been a great one. Of course, then might wonder how they can find sugar snap peas worth eating three months out of season, and well, I suppose that leaves us at something of an impasse. [Recipe]

twice-baked shortbread

Twice Baked Shortbread: Oh, this one is crazy delicious too. It is from a fantastic cookbook I bought months and months and months ago–Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich–that I have made only this single recipe from. (Hangs head in shame.) However, I didn’t pick a bad place to start. The twice-baked shortbread she introduces early in the book reappears throughout it in different variations, but it’s the technique that makes it, like a biscotti treatment on the best kind of cookie. (Yes, I am unabashedly pro-shortbread.) I temporarily forgot that my oven runs cool, and did not nearly bake them long enough to get a nice golden-edged twice-baked effect, but nobody cared, especially because I scraped some vanilla bean in. This is a good one to bookmark, my friends, and I’ve kept it from you far too long. [Recipe below]

One year ago: Arroz Con Pollo
Two years ago: Pumpernickel Bread

Twice-Baked Shortbread
Adapted from Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert

Medrich says that the secrets to tender, buttery, crunchy shortbread are letting the dough rest in the pan for at least two hours, or overnight, before baking and adding a second baking, to toast the cookies ever-so-slightly for extra flavor and crunch. After trying these, I couldn’t agree more and expect to audition variations on this core recipe all winter.

Shortbread can keep for weeks in a sealed container, but I’ve never had any last that long.

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and still warm
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or the scrapings from half a vanilla bean
1/4 teaspoon salt or a couple pinches of flaky maldon
1 1/2 cups (6.75 ounces) all-purpose flour
Turbinado, Demerara or granulated sugar for sprinkling

Equipment: A baking pan with a removable bottom, such as a 9 1/2-inch round or a 4 by 14-inch rectangular fluted tart pan, or a one-piece 8-inch square pan

If using a pan with a removable bottom, grease the pan; if using the one-piece 8-inch pan, line it with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

In a medium bowl, combine the melted butter with the sugar, vanilla of your choice, and salt. Add the flour and mix just until incorporated. Pat and spread the dough evenly in the pan. Let rest for at least 2 hours, or overnight (no need to refrigerate).

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Bake the shortbread for 45 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven, leaving the oven on. Lightly sprinkle the surface of the shortbread with sugar. Let the shortbread cool for 10 minutes.

Remove the shortbread from the pan, being careful to avoid breaking it. Use a thin sharp knife to cut it into oblong “fingers”, wedges, or squares. Place the pieces slightly apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet and put in the oven for 15 minutes. Cool on a rack.


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