Aaand we’re back! With more cookies! And crumbly dough! Yay!
No, seriously, you’ll see how genuine that ‘yay’ is once you see how the latter batch of shortbread turned out as opposed to what the first batch was reduced to…
You may recall my slightly frantic insistence in the last post that dough of the crumbly variety must be chilled before entering the inferno (or the oven, if your home has one of those instead). Well, that was because of these. It really should have occurred to me, given how many trays of home-baked shortbread I’ve seen that started out as perfect little rounds, or festive shapes, and ended their baking journey as indistinguishable blobs with burnt edges and undercooked, slightly gritty middles (they still tasted great, as things made mainly of butter and sugar tend to do), that these dudes need a little extra TLC in their making.
The first thing you may notice about the ingredients for this dough is that there is no egg, meaning nothing to help bind everything together. I’d say “ask me how fun it is to try and persuade this stuff to turn into cookie dough balls”, but I don’t think I want to talk about it right now (read: this dough does not want to play ball).
Puns aside, as with most things I don’t want to talk about right now, I will now proceed to talk about it. At length. With violin music. And maybe a tiny monkey on my shoulder. (No reason, I just think monkeys are cool.)
I’ve never made shortbread with cornmeal before.
Full disclosure: I’ve never made shortbread.
So the above picture kind of makes it look like I’ve already made a mess and given up, right? Negatory! What’s going on is that I have come to understand that, when adding zest to a baking mix, no matter what your recipe says, it’s best to work the zest into the butter situation (rather than, say, after the flour’s gone in) as the fat will bring out the best in the citrus oils, resulting in a brighter flavour in the resultant baked thing.
The other things that’s going on is that I started the butter/sugar mixing by introducing them gently, by hand. We all know what happens if you turn an electric mixer on within a five mile radius of a bowl of icing sugar… I went in for the full blitz once I’d incorporated the nice, wet zest and vanilla extract to the proceedings. I did good.
Next comes the dry stuff, which, as you will see, makes the dough seriously crumbly (or, if you will, ‘short’).
I did two batches of these guys – we’ll discuss why shortly (ha) – and on the second round I mixed in a dribble of milk to make the dough a bit stickier, and therefore a bit more cooperative. As you may recall from my awful ‘play ball’ pun at the start, it was tough getting the crumbly mix to a) form a ball, b) remain a ball once transferred to the baking sheet and c) not collapse into a tiny pile of golden rubble while being gently pressed with a fork. A tiny splash of milk – while totally optional – made things stickier, but much more manageable.
So here’s the first batch of pre-cookies I made. Cute, huh? Rolled em, squished em, sprinkled em with crunchy, sugary goodness and thence to the oven where…
Um… Right. Okay. So. Right. This is how room-temperature shortbread dough behaves after 10 minutes in the inferno/oven:
No, we’re not going to discuss That One. Mainly because I think it did what ever the hell it did just to make my brain hurt. I will not reward it for such behaviour.
Lesson learned: CHILL CRUMBLY DOUGH BEFORE BAKING. These things melted before they’d even begun to bake – they never even stood a chance. That’s cookie injustice you’re looking at right there. Let us right these terrible wrongs. (And then eat them because they look bad, but smell pretty great.)
Here’s a peek at my second attempt at these little bast– er, cookies.
This is the batch I mixed a bit of milk into, as you can probably tell from the bowl of dough.
That dough was chilled before I cookied it, and the cookies were chilled again before I baked them.
I think we can all agree that this is what Charlie Sheen meant by #WINNING.
Even if we can’t agree on that (#tigerblood? no?) we can probably come to a consensus re: the appearance of the pre-chilled cookies vs the state the un-chilled cookies ended up in.
Chilling: you need it, I need it, crumbly cookie dough really needs it. (Cats basically are it. And they invented the internet, so…)
I had to show off my packaging concept for these guys – here’s The Recipe for them, if you’d like to have a go.
They’re a wonderful mix of sweet and slightly savoury with a bit of zing, and there’s a definite melt-in-the-mouth element here. I pair everything with coffee (and, indeed, coffee with everything), but I can say that one or two of these with a strong espresso (possibly with a splash of whisky in, unless you’re 12, in which case, uh, don’t tell your parents about these parentheses) is definitely a good way forward.
I feel like I owe you something for lunch or dinner, after all this confectionery drama. I’ve been playing with tofu and satay sauce and ALL the carbs (so many types of noodle, so many varieties of rice) so maybe I’ll drag you down my Asian-inspired rabbit hole with me… There’s fancy broccoli and squeezy bottles of sweet chilli sauce in here… We’ll have fun.