Chocolate isn’t the only thing in the world, but it was already present when the only thing in the world was discovered and it must have overseen the event.
I have the simplicity and intensity genes and they grow in magnitude when I bake. So many times I wanted a cookie that would astound, delight and cause the recipient of the cookie to fall back into her childhood without knowing why. Just as this cookie recipe of my dreams likely had its origin in my own past life, I knew there must be some contemporary expression of it.
Older confection recipes that are either non-standardized or have the ability to be recast interest me.
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 Epicurious.com recipe includes vanilla and uses Dutch-process cocoa powder instead of the semi- or bittersweet chocolate in the The Pleasures recipe.
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.