Shortbreads

shortbreads-11Shortbreads are one of those cookies that don’t seem like much, but are just delicious. My husband loves them (and my in-laws always have a box stashed somewhere), so I occasionally buy them. The other day I was thinking that I really ought to bake some.

I think I a long time ago made some pecan ones, and there are plenty of recipes around with a lot of recipes around for all sort of different flavors. I wanted to make a basic one, where the main flavor comes from the butter and vanilla.

I have this little book called Miss Jensens Five O’Clock Tea. I got it quite a while ago, but I never made any recipes from it. It is a republish of 1902 recipe collection. Miss Jensen was a famous Danish cook (and head of household) and authored a number of cookbooks for ‘the modern house-wife’. According to the foreword this was a collection of cheap and easy cakes, breads and cookies, useful in the many households where the family gathers for tea before or after dinner. The recipes from this book were primarily ones she gathered when she visited England.

This book obviously contains a recipe for shortbreads – and I don’t know about cheap given it called for a real vanilla pod and (of course) a lot of butter – but I guess that in 1902 there weren’t any cheaper fats available.

Most recipes include butter, flour sugar and vanilla, but this one included an egg too, which I found interesting. I was a bit worried to try out a recipe from 1902 – I doubt the butter has the same amount of water content and salt today as it did then, on top of the differences between European and US style butter. I worked out great though!

Since the butter is one of the main flavoring components of this cookie, using higher quality butter would probably make them taste even better, but I just used Safeway brand Organic butter.

Ingredients: (Original recipe from Frk. Jensen’s Five O’clock Tea)

  • 500 g all-purpose flour (17.6 oz)
  • 250 g butter (8.8 oz )
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Seeds from 1 vanilla pod
  • 150 g sugar (5.2 oz)
  • 1 egg

Method:

1. Split the vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds.

2. Mix the flour, baking powder and vanilla seeds in a bowl.

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3. Add the butter and squeeze the butter into the flour mixture with your hands.

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4. Add the sugar and the egg and mix until a dough forms. Be patient here, it is very crumbly. However, if it needs a little more moisture, I found it useful to wet my hands and keep going – you don’t want to add too much water.

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5. Split the dough in 2 and form it into squares. Let them cool in you refrigerator for 30-60 min.

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6. Preheat your oven to 175-190 C/ 350-370 F, and line some cookie sheets with parchment paper.

7. Take one square out of the refrigerator and roll out to about 1/2 cm thick . Try to make it as square as possible (to minimize waste).

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8. Prick the surface with a fork, and cut out rectangles in the size you desire. I found it useful to use a ruler for this.

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9. Place shortbreads on the prepared sheets. You can place them very close together, as they don’t spread.

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10. Bake for 12-17 min, until golden brown. You have to keep an eye on them, the time will vary with oven.

11. Let cool on a wire rack. Repeat if you could not fit them all in the oven at once.

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I thought the recipe was very successful, and very delicious. Such a simple cookie, and always perfect with tea, coffee or hot chocolate.

 

Walnut Cookies

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These cookies are actually Christmas cookies, but they are good at any time. The recipe is from an old Christmas cookie flyer from a brand of flour in Denmark (Amo), probably from the late 70’s. They are crisp and buttery and very ‘more-ish’.

Ingredients:

  • 400 g flour (14.1 oz)
  • 300 g butter (cold) (10.5 oz)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 50-75 g coarsely chopped walnuts (1.8-2.6 oz)
  • Raw sugar for decoration

Method:

1. Mix all the ingredients, except walnuts, to a rough dough. Use your fingers to squeeze the butter into the other ingredients.

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2. Add the walnuts and mix well.

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3. Divide the dough into 6 parts, and roll out to rolls, approximately 20 cm / 8 inches in length. The rolls should be about 2.5 cm / 1 inch in diameter.

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4. Roll each roll in raw sugar – if you don’t have that caster sugar will work too.

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5. Wrap the rolls in plastic wrap and cool in the refrigerator for about an hour or more. You can also freeze them and make them later.

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6. Preheat the oven to 220 C / 428 F.

7. Once the rolls are set, take one out at a time and slice into fairly thin cookies, about 0.5 cm / 0.2 inches thick each. There should be about 25 cookies per roll. Keep turning the roll as you cut, so they stay round.

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8. Place the cookies on parchment sheets. They don’t expand much, so you can put them fairly close to each other.

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9. Bake for about 8 min until golden brown at the edges.

10. Cool the cookies on a rack and repeat with the remaining sheets.

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Simply and very yummy. The original recipe calls for butter or margarine, but the butter taste is really prominent, I don’t think they would taste as well without it.