Not Your Average Shortbread
Ever since I bought the Baking with Julia book many years ago, I have been eying this recipe for Hungarian shortbread, but I have never made it. The photos are really enticing. There’s this jewel-like layer of jam sandwiched between two shortbread layers and it is all showered with a generous coating of powdered sugar. I have been longing for this shortbread. So, why have I waited 12 years to make it? I’ll tell you why.
A pound of butter. The recipe calls for a pound of butter and makes just one 9 by 12 inch pan of shortbread. For some reason, that just seemed like an awful lot of butter, even for me, and I do not normally shy away from butter content at all. In fact, I have been known to go through multiple pounds of butter in a day, but I do a lot of bulk baking and I freeze a lot for future events.
Anyway, excuses aside, I was excited to finally try this recipe because I thought it would be really good. I mean, can you go wrong with a pound of butter, some flour, egg yolks, and jam? Also, I was interested in its unusual method of freezing the cookie dough and then grating it into the pan. Getting the dough together and shaped into tubes that would fit in my food processor was easy enough.
With the food processor, grating was really easy and just took a few seconds. I wanted two different flavors, so I used two eight inch pans. The grated dough looks a lot like grated cheese. After I spread out the bottom layer, I baked the bottoms for 15 minutes first.
After the bottom baked for a bit, I took them out and spread jam on top. I used jams I made last year: one was a rhubarb jam with candied ginger and the other was a raspberry blueberry jam. I wanted to stay faithful to the recipe, but, honestly, not everyone likes rhubarb. My husband and I love it, but my kids, not so much. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t be too bothered by this, but we are talking about a pound of butter here and I didn’t think it wise that the husband and I should be “stuck” with the whole pan. This way, most people would be happy and I wouldn’t have to buy a whole new wardrobe.
Anyway, the shortbread looked and smelled delicious coming out of the oven. I think I tried to pull out one of them a little early. That is why one of them appears cracked. I pushed it back together and had no issues with it. The bars stayed together just fine.
This time, I planned ahead a little and made sure to make this on a day when a good friend was coming over for a chinwag. It was great. Finally, after all these great recipes, I was able to have a little tea party. These were perfect with tea. They were a little crunchy, but then they melted in your mouth. The rhubarb jam was a great, tart contrast and the berry was very yummy as well. All the kids chose berry and they were inhaled at a record pace. I think the grating of the dough really made this a fluffy shortbread, not the dense, crunchy kind you normally think of when you hear the word shortbread.
The rhubarb version is in the foreground and the berry is in the back. We had a great time chatting and I was happy to discover that my dear friend loves rhubarb! Now, clearly, we did not eat them all. I sent some home with her, but still had over two dozen left, so I took them with me to a workshop over the weekend. When it was over, the tin was empty. Everyone loved them. The husband even said that they were the best shortbread he has ever had. And now, I’m a little sad that we don’t have any left over. I think I may have to make some more.
Now that I think about it, a pound of butter is not so bad. I got 32 servings from my two pans, which makes it about one tablespoon of butter per bar. That’s better than a piece of pie. I have a lot more jam in the cupboard. I wonder what I should try next? Fig citrus? Cherry grapefruit? Apricot butter? Strawberry Peach?