Category Archives: Cookies

Secrets of Shortbread

shortbread
Heart-shaped Shortbread

As a pastry chef, I frequently get asked “What is your favorite dessert?”.  Well the answer is that I have many favorites! Of course, I am a pastry chef and get to eat delectable treats all day.  To say that I have a favorite is like asking a mother which child she prefers.  But, I will say that after spending many hours completing intricate wedding cakes or piping the perfect mousse, simplicity is often my favorite trait in a dessert.  And one of the simplest (and most delightful) desserts I can think of is shortbread.

Shortbread is all about the butter which of course I love.  The name literally describes the short gluten strands that are created in the cookie by greasing the flour up with butter.  But, it isn’t just the butter that makes this cookie fabulous.  It is that it is so simple and yet it goes with anything.  You can dress it up by dipping it in chocolate or adorning it with nuts.  You can crumble it and top a tart.  Or, like me, you can have it with a cup of tea and enjoy it while pondering over your day’s activities.  Which method will you choose? 🙂

Shortbread (From Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery book)

  • 180 grams unsalted butter
  • 90 g sugar
  • 2 salt
  • 6 g vanilla paste
  • 270 g all purpose flour
  • extra sugar for dusting the cookies
  1. Cream butter and sugar together in a mixer using the paddle attachment for 2-3  minutes until butter is soft, light, pale, and fluffy.  Add salt and vanilla paste.  Mix for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Mix for 1 more minute.
  2. Add flour.  Mix slowly until the dough just starts to come together and then dump the contents on the counter and knead the ingredients into a dough.
  3. Wrap with plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour or overnight.
  4. Roll dough out between two sheets of parchment paper (this will keep the dough from sticking and you will not need additional flour).  You can bang on the dough a bit with the rolling pin to soften it before rolling it.
  5. Roll the dough to about 1/4 inch thick and then cut into 2×1 rectangles.  I also like to cut my shortbread into hearts.  (This can be very elegant later if you decide to dip half the heart into chocolate).
  6. Place cut cookies onto cookie tray with at least 1/2 inch between them.
  7. Dust cookies lightly with granulated sugar.
  8. Chill cookies for at least 1 hour to relax the gluten.
  9. Bake cookies at 325 F for 15-18 minutes until they are a pale golden brown.
  10. Enjoy! 🙂

Flaky Goodness – Povidla Kolace (Plum Jam Cakes)

I can’t think of a cookie recipe more simple and more delicious than the recipe for Czech plum cakes.  These cookies only contain three ingredients and no added sugar and yet their flaky, light deliciousness knows no bounds.  These cookies almost remind me of a quick and rough way to make puff pastry.  The trick with these cookies is to handle the dough minimally and use the Czech plum jam if you can find it. The cookies are traditionally made with Powidl jam which is a rich, thick dark purple jam made in the Czech Republic from late harvest Italian plums.  It can be hard to find but if you can locate this real jewel of a jam then utilize it in this recipe.  Not only is it traditional to the cookies but it imparts a rich flavor and beautiful color.  And now sit back and enjoy the recipe for these Czech cookies which are notorious crowd-pleasers.

plum jamplum cake

Povidla Kolace (Plum Jam Cakes)

Ingredients

8 oz unsalted butter

8 oz ricotta cheese

8 oz all purpose flour

Plum jam (preferably Czech Powidl jam if you can find it)

Combine ingredients together on counter.  Cut in butter and cheese until the butter is in pea-sized pieces.  Use your hangs to form the ingredients into a dough, folding the dough over as you press it together.  When the dough is formed refrigerate for at least 30 minutes so the dough can chill and the gluten can relax.

Once the dough has cooled roll it out to about 1/4 inch thickness. Cut the dough into 2 X 2 in. squares.  Place a dollop of jam in each dough square.  Press the opposite corners of each square together and pinch very tightly to form a dough purse.  Space with room on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake at 375 F for 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Dust lightly with confectionary sugar and serve.

plum cake on cookie tray

baked plum cake

plum cake with sugar