Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Walnut Shortbread

I usually get an itch to bake at least once a day (if I'm lucky!). Unfortunately, my pantry doesn't always match my aspirations. A slim pantry doesn't tend to stop me. In fact, I kind of like it. I feel like I've been given a challenge. What can you make with no eggs, no milk, and no chocolate? Ugh...why bother!.. some might say! Not me.  I did have one stick of butter left in the freezer. Thank goodness. At least I had butter! I scoured my cookbooks- my cookie ones mostly- knowing that there had to be a few recipes out there that would scratch my itch with just a few ingredients. And lo and behold, on page 55 of Good Housekeeping Cookies cookbook I found a Walnut Shortbread recipe. 

It called for just four ingredients!
1.Walnuts (I had exactly the 1/2 cup it called for!) 
2. Flour
3. Sugar
4. Butter (exactly 1 stick)'s like the Baking Gods were calling for me to make this today! On an 80 degree day no less

Of course, being the baking dweeb that I am I decided to consult my Cook's Illustrated Bible on shortbread.  What did the experts have to say on shortbread?  The CI experts said the all flour recipe tends to create too much gluten resulting in a dry and tough shortbread. Ugh who wants that? They subbed in some oats. Well I didn't have any of that! I did have cake flour though.  The recipe on page 54 used half AP flour and half cake flour to make them "tender as authentic Scottish Shortbread". Now how come the page 55 recipe didn't call for half cake flour? Hmmph. I wanted authentic shortbread just like the next person! The CI experts also said using confectioner's sugar instead of granulated resulted in a better texture.  Well taking all this into consideration, and my pantry, I was able to come up with this modified version of page 55. 

This recipe comes together quickly as well. First start by toasting your walnuts.
Then transfer the walnuts and 1/2 cup of flour to your food processor fitted with the blade. Pulse until the walnuts are finely ground.

Transfer the walnut mixture to a medium sized bowl. Add the remaining flour.

Add in the butter. And mix it in with your hands. So messy but so satisfying!

Mix until it is nice and crumbly. See..I told you totally satisfying!

Now press into a 9-inch square pan. (Or whatever you have on hand. I used 8-inch pan and mine turned out just fine!)

I think this would go great with a cup of tea. If I had any.

Walnut Shortbread
Adapted from Good Housekeeping Favorite Recipes, Cookies!

1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
3/4 cup AP flour
3/4 cup cake flour
1/2 cup sugar (granulated or confectioners- I used confectioner's)
1/2 cup butter or margarine (1 stick), softened

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast walnuts in a single layer for about 5-7 minutes.  
2. In food processor with knife blade attached, process walnuts with 1/2 cup flour until finely ground.
3. In medium bowl, combine remaining flour, cake flour, sugar, and walnut mixture until blended.
4. With fingertips, blend butter into walnut mixture until well combined and crumbly. With hand, press dough onto bottom of ungreased 9- inch baking pan. (I used an 8- inch baking pan and adjusted my time).
5. Bake until light golden, 25 to 30 minutes. While still warm, cut into 4 strips, then cut each strip crosswise into 6 pieces. Cool completely in pan on wire rack.
6. When cool, with small metal spatula, carefully remove cookies from pan.

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