Sunday, May 23, 2010

Shortbread: Comparing Processes

It's been less than 2 months of Shortbread Saturdays, and I've learned so much!  Betty's shortbread uses an 8-inch cast iron skillet and bakes 40 minutes at 300 degrees.  Betty's shortbread does not contain cornstarch, ground oatmeal, or brown rice flour.  In retrospect, I can't believe I even tried those things!  And when budget allows, Betty's shortbread is made with cultured organic butter. 

You know how, as an eye exam nears the end, the optometrist begins to ask, "Which view is better, this one . . .  or this one?".  That's the point I'm at with basic shortbread:  getting down to details and preferences.  It's easiest to make decisions comparing options together, not a week apart.  So today I bought another 8-inch skillet, and will begin baking two batches at a time.

This week I used exactly the same shortbread recipe, but mixed it in the food processor two different ways.  Batch 1 was processed like pie crust, blending all dry ingredients first, then cutting in chilled butter.  Batch 2 began with creaming together the butter and sugar, then adding the other dry ingredients.

Neither batch was over-processed, or kneaded extensively.  While some recipes say that the more you knead shortbread, the better, I can't figure out why.  More kneading releases more of the flour's gluten, which seems great for bread, but not for shortbread.

Anyway, the winner is. . . Batch 2.  While both batches tasted very, very good, the second had a better texture, and would be easier to chill and use for rolling or shaping.

I'll call the finishing touches to this week's shortbread "Country Memories".  I made a glaze from maple syrup that my brother processed from our home farm.  The farm is in southern Minnesota, and has been in the family since our Irish ancestors settled there in the 1860's.

I brushed the glaze on, then topped it with very finely chopped black walnuts.  Again these evoke memories of the wonderful black walnut trees on the farm and many childhood winter hours spent picking walnuts.  We earned spending that way, selling quart jars full of the walnut pieces for just $5.00.  What a bargain.

Today's cookies are "can't eat one" shortbread wedges.  The maple glaze and walnuts add a light, delicious flavor, but did not take away from the natural buttery taste of the shortbread.

5.22.2010_Shortbread with Rice Flour (Grade-A)
Pan:  8 inch cast iron skillet
Oven temperature:  300 degrees F
Baking time:  40 minutes

Process until creamy:  1/2 c. salted butter
                                    1/3 c. powdered sugar

Add:  3/4 c. all purpose flour
         1/4 c. white rice flour
Process just until mixed.

No comments:

Post a Comment