Before I Forget

Did everyone have a thoroughly enjoyable weekend? Did you have an easter egg scavenger hunt? Or eat a lot of chocolate bunnies? Cadbury creme eggs (man, I could tear one of those down right now, never mind the fact that I just shoved a piece of cake into my face…)? Did you wear really lame-looking pastel-colored outfits with bow ties and Mary Janes? Or did you force those sort of cute things on your kids, instead?!

Get this: I didn’t do any of those things. Except, of course, I did have an enjoyable weekend. Duh.

We spent all day Saturday at Tomales Bay Oyster Farm again, because going this long without an oyster retreat was just silly. The weather was brilliantly sunny, speckled with a  few appearances by the clouds and the wind, and we had plenty of awesome food to choose from, which meant we pretty much ate from 11 AM to 5 PM, and there was nothing wrong with that in the slightest. We finished up the day with some Walking Dead episodes, since Judy and Jared can’t seem to get their act together to watch the rest of this season on their own. Dang non-cable-havers.

Sunday started off with an hour and a half of constant sweating at Bikram yoga (I’m still not sure why I’m torturing myself in these classes, but I think I sorta like them…) and a nice lunch with friends followed by a few hours of pinning, blogging, photo-editing, and grocery-planning. Jealous? I get that all the time :). What won’t make you jealous, I’m sure, is that doing laundry was also part of the fun.

So before I forget, I wanted to slip in the recipe I mentioned a few weeks back – the fennel & manchego shortbread cookies that were part of the co-winning Iron Chef dish at the last battle. I’m not sure why shortbread cookies are named as they are – they are neither short nor bready, but what they are is extremely tasty. Butter-laden, they are always perfect cookies to have around tea, or coffee, or in this case, ice cream. And caramel. But I ate a few by themselves and they were just fine too.

Now don’t let these cookies surprise you – they are a touch sweet, and they definitely live up to the definition of shortbread, which essentially requires that they are loaded with fat, ahem, butter, and that they are crumby and biscuit-ish, but what they also do is this – they also lean more to the savory side of things, which some people find weird for cookies. For one, they have a healthy amount of cheese baked into them, which once out of the oven they possess a gorgeous orangey-brown speck here and there, like the cheese in a cheddar biscuit, perhaps (and yes, now I am dying to demolish a biscuit. with or without cheddar. preferably with.).

For two, they are showered in fennel seeds, which I promise you only makes them better. You could nix the fennel if you wanted to, and add say, sesame seeds or lavender or orange zest or whatever, but I swear to you the fennel and Manchego cheese are meant to be in this cookie. I promise you, your mouth will thank you.

 

Manchego Shortbread with Fennel & Sea Salt
Adapted from Bon Appetit, March 2012; makes ~24

printable version

time commitment: 3 hours (1 hour active; 2 hours chilling dough)

ingredients
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 c powdered sugar
1 t freshly ground black pepper
3/4 t kosher salt
2 c all-purpose flour plus a little more for rolling out the dough
1 c finely grated Manchego cheese (about 2 ounces)
1 T fennel seeds
1 t sea salt
2 T extra-virgin olive oil

instructions
Using an electric mixer, beat butter in a medium bowl on low speed until smooth, 1–2 minutes. Add powdered sugar, pepper, and kosher salt. Reduce speed to medium and beat, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, until light and fluffy, 4–5 minutes. Add flour and cheese. Reduce mixer speed to low and beat mixture just until dough comes together.

Wrap dough in plastic and flatten into a rectangle. Chill until firm, at least 2 hours. You can do this up to a few days in advance if you want. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before continuing.

Pulse fennel seeds in a spice grinder (aka coffee grinder) until coarsely crushed (or close them up in a Ziploc bag and crush with something like a rolling pin). Transfer to a small bowl; stir in sea salt. Set fennel salt aside.

Arrange a rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove plastic wrap from dough. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to a 10×8-inch rectangle about 1/4-inch thick. Cut in thirds crosswise, then cut each third crosswise into 6 rectangles. Arrange cookies on prepared baking sheet, spacing 1 inch apart. Brush cookies generously with oil, then sprinkle with fennel salt. If you have extra dough, you can always roll that out and re-cut. I did this with my dough to make even more cookies, just make sure the dough doesn’t get to warm or else the cookies will flatten when they’re baking.

Bake, rotating sheet halfway through, until cookies are golden brown (flecks of cheese will be slightly darker), ~20 minutes. Let cool on sheets for at least 10 minutes. Cookies will keep in an airtight container for a couple of days.

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Dear Lime Shortbread Cookie: I Love You Times Infinity

lime shortbread cookie closeup


Something about a mound of gooey silky white chocolate with a smattering of lime zest was way too tempting to overlook. Once I saw you in my magazine, I knew you were the one, and I had to make you mine. Is Saturday good for you?


I am an avid reader of way too many food magazines. I always subscribe rather than buy off the shelf, so I generally feel that the money saved balances out the expense of the reads. Plus, the cost pales in comparison to Chris’ comic books anyway. So when it comes to findings recipes, I’m a bit old-school. I’d much rather clip each and every one of you from a magazine than search for you on the web. That being said, I have a rather large stack of you clipped to the side of the fridge – all of you just waiting, patiently I might add, in queue. Over time, some of you get tossed. No real rules here – but if I keep passing you by week after week it’s either because I have become bored with the idea of cooking you or because you are too high-maintenance for my schedule. Either way – you run the risk of getting cut, or worse – getting replaced


cookie ingredients


Occasionally, one of you will possess a quality that your former or latter stack-ee cannot measure up to – perhaps a special ingredient (like a veal shank – you are something else) or maybe a convenient cooking method (baked shrimp – I could cook you any day with ease), or in this example – a specific flavor combination that I can not say no to under any circumstance. 


Lime & White Chocolate – be still my heart.


cookies from the oven


And so, with only a name as your selling point, you have wooed me in an instant and made me drool over you for long enough. I snipped you out of my Bon Appetit April 2009 edition days ago, gave you a spot in the front of the dessert line, and even considered your lime trait alone as a choice theme ingredient for an Iron Chef battle. (I do apologize in choosing coconut, by the way. But I wanted to have you all to myself, or at least to be able to save a few of you for a special moment which would not have been possible had I taken you to Kitchen Stadium. I do hope you understand). I could not wait any longer. 


And now, now I know why. You are everything a shortbread cookie should be – everything and so much more. You are dense, crunchy, crumby, and full of flavor. Your flavor profile – butter, lime zest, white chocolate, and toasted almonds – to die for. Your style – impeccable. You are tenacious, sexy, innovative and bold – and you leave me wanting more. I hope you don’t mind that I tell some of my friends how I feel about you.


 

 white chocolate shortbread cookies


Lime Shortbread Cookies w/ White Chocolate & Almonds
Bon Appetit, April 2009



ingredients

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons finely grated lime peel, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 3.5-ounce bar high-quality white chocolate (such as Lindt or Perugina), finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds


instructions

  • Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan. Blend flour, sugar, and salt in processor. Add butter, 2 tablespoons lime peel, and vanilla; process just until blended and dough forms clumps. Press evenly into prepared baking pan. Pierce dough all over with fork. Using sharp knife, cut dough into 12 squares, cutting through dough completely, then cut each square in half on diagonal, forming 24 triangles total.
  • Bake shortbread until golden brown, crisp around edges, and firm to touch, about 45 minutes (I would bake 40 next time). Remove from oven. Using sharp knife, immediately recut shortbread, gently separating triangles. Cool in pan on rack.
  • Place white chocolate in small metal bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of gently simmering water and stir just until chocolate is melted and smooth. (I melt in microwave, in short intervals over low heat and stir between each). Remove bowl from over water. Using fork, drizzle melted chocolate in zigzag pattern over shortbread. Sprinkle evenly with almonds and remaining 1 tablespoon lime peel. Let stand until chocolate sets, about 1 hour.