Yup. Time to delve into the Flour cookbook again. I swear one day I’ll make something that isn’t by Joanne Chang..
Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe | Joanne Chang
(Chronicle Books, 2010)
It was my mum’s birthday, so I wanted to bake something for her. She likes shortbread, and these seemed fun and interesting. Also, logistically, it’s hella easier to transport some biscuits than it is an iced cake. Or indeed any cake. Plus it was something I’d never tried before, and the whole point of this project i to get myself doing new things.
I have to say, in the absence of an electric mixer, I’m seriously glad that I had my little brainwave of microwaving the butter before trying to blend it in with the sugar. It’s hardly revolutionary and it’s not exactly got Heston Blumenthal quaking in his boots, but compared with beating and beating and beating to soften the butter, it’s amazing. Yes, I’m amazed that I can walk and chew gum at the same time, too. I’m learning.
Because they’re so buttery (obviously, being shortbread) you’ve got to chill the dough before you roll it out. It wasn’t really firming up though, so I whacked it in the freezer for a few minutes, which seemed to be a mistake, as the dough kept cracking and was still very sticky. But with a bit of reworking and a bit more flour thrown in, it got back to the right texture.
You’re meant to cut out regular shapes with a knife but I have zero confidence in my ability to get things consistent, so I just used a cookie cutter. The advantage was the regular size achieved; the disadvantage was the leftover dough after cutting out. I ended up throwing a bit away, because I’d already filled up three baking sheets with cookies and I didn’t want to do another batch, especially as I’d have to rechill the dough.
I needed to use a pallete knife to slide them off the counter onto the baking sheet. I’m not sure how I ever even tried to do baking without a pallete knife to be honest.
They look like this:
Yes, yes, I did put them on tissue paper and toss about some sprigs of rosemary in an attempt to get all food stylist in the hizzay. And what? In my defence, the tissue paper was to wrap them in to go into a gift bag for my mum. (Seriously. So much easier than a cake.)
Tastewise, the rosemary wasn’t really detectable. There was only a teaspoon in the whole mix, so I think I’d up that a bit in future. I was paranoid about undercooking, and as a result they got a wee bit overcooked, but not to the extent that it affected the taste.
I hate ‘melt in the mouth’, as a phrase, because it’s a cliche, and always sounds kind of gross and pervy. Nonetheless, that’s what they did. Which is perhaps unsurprising given that they’re about 75% butter. My mum liked them, so yay for that.
What I’m really liking about this whole project, though, is that it’s giving me a basis of solid recipes that I can experiment from. I’m probably going to do some lavender ones (to use up the lavender sugar that will otherwise sit there forever). And some coconut ones because coconut. Any other suggestions?