Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Week 8: Austrian Shortbread--My First Failure

See that? This is what I like to call My First Failure in my year long project of cookies. Did it bake? Yes. Did it taste okay? Yes. Did it turn out as I wanted it to? Absolutely not.

To preface, I should mention that I have made this cookie before. It was requested by certain family members that I make this cookie, so I caved. Truth be told, I hate making this cookie; it's just so difficult. And I know where I went wrong: the jam.

The idea behind this recipe is a layered bar; from top to bottom is shortbread, jam, shortbread. The recipe originally calls for seedless raspberry jam, which is wonderful and delicious and all sorts of good things that I cannot truly describe. It's light, fluffy, and flavorful. There is truly nothing like it. But I digress.

So the important thing is the jam. I had quite a bit of homemade pomegranate jam from my Pomegranate Pillow cookies, so I decided to use that instead of raspberry jam. I could tell right from the start that there was an issue, though; the jam almost immediately began to seep through the bottom layer of shortbread. I figured it would be okay, though. There was no way I was giving up before I bake it.

The recipe calls for the bars to bake for 30-40 minutes. After an hour, the bars were just about done. Once pulled out, the center caved in, the sides were discolored, and it did not look good at all. So I threw some powdered sugar on top and decided that it would be a "treat" for us; there was no way that I was going to take this embarrassment to work.

So how did it taste? Pretty good, actually. That doesn't make up for the fact that I messed it up, though. Perhaps for a frame of reference I should include a picture of the shortbread bars done correctly:

Yea, slightly more attractive. And the layers are distinguishable. Beautiful.

So, there is nothing wrong with the recipe itself. Just make sure you use the right jam.

You really should try this recipe. If you want a workout for your upper arms, that is. You heard (read?) me correctly. The trick to this shortbread (besides using the right jam) is grating the frozen dough into the pan. AND you can't compress the gratings. And there's a lot of dough. Once the dough is mixed, it is separated into two equal pieces, wrapped in plastic, and frozen for a bit. When you're ready to prepare the bars, you take one half out of the freezer, grate it into the pan, and spread it evenly without pressing down. I have yet to prepare this recipe in a pan under 40 minutes. Can you see now why I was so pissed off that this one was a botched batch? Yea....

Anyway, the recipe is great, and definitely worth a try at least once. So of course I will share it with you! I found this recipe online, and I love the end result so much. Seriously, try it some time.

Lydia's Austrian Raspberry Shortbread
makes 12 to 16 large bars

1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, lightly softened
4 egg yolks
2 cups granulated sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup seedless raspberry jam, at room temperature
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar

1. Cream the butter in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or with a hand mixer) until soft and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and mix well.

2. Mix the granulated sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt together. Add to the butter and egg yolk mixture and mix until just incorporated and the dough starts to come together. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and form into two balls. Wrap each ball with plastic wrap and freeze at least 2 hours or overnight (can be frozen up to one month).

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

4. Remove one ball of dough from the freezer and coarsely grate it by hand or with the grating disk of a food processor into a 9x13 inch baking pan or a 10 inch tart pan with removable bottom. Make sure the surface is covered evenly with shreds of dough.

5. With the back of a spoon or a flexible spatula, spread the jam over the surface, to within 1/2 inch of the edge all the way around. Remove the remaining dough from the freezer and coarsely grate it over the entire surface.

6. Bake until lightly golden brown, about 30-40 minutes. As soon as the shortbread comes out of the oven, dust with confectioners sugar. Cool on a wire rack, then cut in the pan with a serrated knife.

Some alterations I made:
- I use a piping bag to cover the shortbread with jam. It seems to work better for me.
- If you can, use a baker's bench knife to cut your bars. It makes a cleaner cut, gets all the way to the edges cleanly, and doesn't scratch your pan. Such a great buy for all your baking needs.
- If you're a chocolate junkie like me, adding miniature chocolate chips on top of the jam before you grate the rest of the dough makes for a heavenly result. Again, definitely worth a try.
- I know that the recipe calls for raspberry jam, but feel free to substitute any flavor you like...as long as it's jam! :-D

So the failure? I've decided it's not so bad. No one is perfect, right? Of course right!

And for those who have been following it, I have not updated my Tastebook for some time; I hope to catch up on that soon.

Stay tuned for next week's exciting cookie! And yes, I do know what it will be. ;-) And, as always, happy baking!

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