While in London, I received the news that my dear friend had her twins, one boy and one girl. Always gorgeous, the pregnancy gave her a glow and one couldn't tell from behind that she was carrying babies. She looked great each and every time I saw her. Upon my return, I made plans to see her and meet the tiny twins. I asked for suggestions on what to take and received several great ideas: baked chicken, lasagna, something her husband enjoys, several types of casseroles and shortbread cookies. I like to cook. As many of you know, I try all sorts of recipes from vegan, to gluten-free, to raw, to hearty fare and everything in between... but I love to bake. Especially for others. I enjoy taking the time to accurately measure out the ingredients and, for me, the time spent in the kitchen is meditative and peaceful. I enjoy it so much, that I recently created an iTunes playlist called "Cooking in the Kitchen" full of songs with artists such as Ray LaMontagne, Coldplay and Beyoncé.
Having just returned from London where I purchased tea as gifts, what better treat than shortbread cookies to go with it? I found a recipe from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, and went to work. Her recipe called for melted chocolate drizzled over the final product, which I opted not to do for mine, but it's a fairly simple step if you opt to include.
- 3/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 6 to 7 ounces very good semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (only if you want to drizzle over at the end)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.
Roll the dough 1/2-inch thick and cut with a 3 by 1-inch finger-shaped cutter. Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature.
When the cookies are cool, place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Put 3 ounces of the chocolate in a glass bowl and microwave on high power for 30 seconds. (Don't trust your microwave timer; time it with your watch.) Stir with a wooden spoon. Continue to heat and stir in 30-second increments until the chocolate is just melted. Add the remaining chocolate and allow it to sit at room temperature, stirring often, until it's completely smooth. Stir vigorously until the chocolate is smooth and slightly cooled; stirring makes it glossier.
Drizzle 1/2 of each cookie with just enough chocolate to coat it.
I didn't have the cookie cutter size or shape called for in the recipe, so I improvised with a biscuit cutter, which worked just fine. In my hurried state of getting out the door with fresh shortbread, I didn't take a photo of the finished product either, but they turned out buttery and delicious and went perfectly with tea! Also a great idea for a girly catch up with friends or a housewarming gift.