Chef Linda's Confection Commentary

Category: Shortbread Desserts

The Aromatics of Perfume – and Shortbread

Aromatics, the inbreath of the artisanal essay,

the story of alchemy, of appetite, of desires

botanical and buttery, floral and foresty, 

of an olfactory narrative that remembers, relives, rejuvenates…


The Aromatics of Perfume and Shortbread?

Enhancing single flavor and textural development, as I often say, are my two primary drivers in recipe formulation. The luxurious mouthfeel of our fine-crumb Essential Butter Cake is made more pleasureful by the savory succulence of the finest quality Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.  True, as well, is that the cotton candy texture of our Essential Artisan Milanese and Northwest varieties of panettone is the willowy structure that showcases the finest quality internal garnishes.

As promised previously, I have researched and tested flavor profiles for our new holiday 2021 offering: Essential Shortbread. In so doing, an opportunity for self-education on how our olfactory sense – the glorious sense of smell – plays the preeminent role in pleasureful food experiences, has presented itself.

Aromatics are the catalysts for the full enjoyment of flavor. Wine tasting is an obvious example. There are as many categories of aromatics for the nose as there are for tasting. On the nose, one may detect:

  • types of wood
  • red fruits, dark fruits
  • tree, citrus, tropical, stone fruits
  • earthy, savory, gamey scents
  • buttery or yeasty scents
  • green, floral, spice/nut scents
  • even secondary aromatics such as petrol and pine resin

One day while in culinary school I did a tasting of Oregon’s Clear Creek Distillery brandies – among them Clear Creek eau de vie of Douglas Fir. No kidding. That experience piqued my interest, latent until some years later, in creating the individual features of a composed dessert using the essence of Doug Fir, the iconic Pacific Northwest tree. That signature dessert will integrate into a stable of unique desserts offered by the Outsource Dessert Kitchen of our sister restaurant consulting company, Essential-Insight Advisors.

My interest in developing a flavor profile around the Douglas Fir yielded the opportunity to do an unscientific and impromptu flavor testing of Clear Creek’s beloved brandy. What was obvious in the nose was the scent of resin – a pine or fir resin, and easily identifiable. The tasting portion of the experiment yielded the unmistakable flavor of mint – spearmint – and an aftereffect of cinnamon-like warmth.

The self-education piece is related to Aftelier Perfumes in Berkeley, California. The owner, Mandy Aftel, a natural perfumer – natural meaning the use of no synthetics, parabens, glycols or petrochemicals in Aftelier’s products – produces Chef’s Essences for world-class chefs and mixologists. Her products and philosophy of scent-as-taste align closely with my own interest in flavor development. Mandy’s book with Michelin star chef Daniel Patterson, “The Art of Flavor: Practices & Principles for Creating Delicious Food”, is a handbook for learning how to cook without recipes.

Essential Confection’s holiday 2021 gift tin is Essential Douglas Fir Shortbread. We’ll be learning more about it as the fall months approach.

Essential Butter Cake is available year-round for gift-giving or for your family’s own pleasureful events. Our flagship panettone – Artisan Milanese and Northwest – will again be available by pre-order only beginning in early November.

Remembering That the Actual Purchase is the Experience…

The gift of our olfactory sense is always present. The full enjoyment of wine or confection products paradoxically reduces to the singular, simple – yet mysteriously sophisticated – experiences of smell and taste.

Gift-giving is never made more special than when your story of gratitude for others – in aromatics and in flavor – is the vehicle of thanks.

We so appreciate your continued support of Essential Confection.


Chocolate Shortbread

Older confection recipes that are either non-standardized or have the ability to be recast interest me.

Chocolate Shortbread

Chocolate Shortbread

Chocolate shortbread is one such recipe.  Simple, elegant; dressed up, dressed down, it has a graceful foundation and future possibility as both its simple self and as a component for more sophisticated creations.

Elegance is obvious in its succulent mouth feel, a consequence of an extremely high percentage of butter.  Shortbread has a relatively low overall percentage of sugar.

The recipe I use was published in The Pleasures of Cooking, the Cuisinart mag that celebrated the company’s inception in 1983 or 1984.  An recipe includes vanilla and uses Dutch-process cocoa powder instead of the semi- or bittersweet chocolate in the The Pleasures recipe.

Chocolate Shortbread

Process 3 oz semi- or bittersweet (62-70% cacao) baking chocolate and 1/2 C superfine sugar in the Cuisinart using the metal blade, turning the machine on and off just until the chocolate is coarsely chopped.  Let the processor run for 60 seconds or until the mixture is very fine.

Add 1 C (2 sticks) unsalted butter cut into small pieces; process until creamy, scraping the bowl as necessary.  Add 2 C all-purpose flour, scraping down as necessary until well mixed.  Dough will form a soft ball.  Pat dough evenly into a buttered 13×9 pan.  Bake at 300 degrees F for 35-40 minutes, or until the center is firm.

Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 min, then cut into squares; allow it to remain in the pan to cool completely.

Each square may be decorated with a butter cream frosting rosette, if desired.

Butter cream frosting: Process 3 Tbsp unsalted butter at room temp, 1 C confectioners sugar and 1-2 Tbsp heavy cream in food processor.  Pipe onto chocolate shortbread with pastry bag with star tip to form rosettes.

It will be fun to experiment with both recipes to compare depth of chocolate flavor before deciding which to use as a component of future recipes.

Dutifully discerning desserts.

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