Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cooking Up Holiday Spirit

WVLC hopes that everyone had a joyful and tasty Thanksgiving. Now it is time to start baking for the December holiday season!

This week's cookbook is Damon Lee Fowler's New Southern Baking: Classic Flavors for Today's Cooks

Southern Shortbread

From France to Scotland, England to America, everyone loves these buttery-rich and yet delicate cookies -- and everyone seems to have a favorite variation. Perhaps its popularity is due in part to the fact that it is an easy, artless confection, made up of little more than softened butter, flour, and sugar rubbed together with no particular care or technique -- as easy to make as they are to gobble down by the handful. In the South, many cooks give the crumb a toothsome crunch by adding a handful of stone-ground cornmeal. For a more delicate cookie, you can substitute an equal volume of corn flour or cornstarch for the cornmeal.

Makes about 2 to 3 dozen cookies, depending on the chosen size and shape

1/2 cup sugar
12 ounces (about 2 1/4 cups) Southern soft-wheat flour or soft-wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup fine stone-ground white cornmeal
8 ounces (1 cup or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1. Whisk together the sugar, a small pinch of salt, the flour, and the cornmeal. With your fingers or a pastry blender , work the butter into the flour until the mixture has the texture of coarse meal. Keep blending with your hands until it is smooth. Gather it into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill it for at least 30 minutes -- until it is firm but not hard.

2. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. To shape the cookies you may simply pat the dough flat on a cookie sheet in large rounds or rectangles a little less than 1/4 inch thick and prick the dough at regular intervals with a fork; or pinch off small (1-inch diameter) lumps, roll them between your hands into a tight ball, then press each one float on a cookie sheet with a cookie stamp or the palm of your hand; or lightly flour a flat work surface, dust the dough with flour, roll it out just under 1/4 inch thick, and cut it with a cookie cutter. Transfer the cut cookies to a cookie sheet with a spatula, spacing them about an inch apart.

3. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned. Let the shortbread cool on the cookie sheet. If you have baked it in one large piece, while it is still warm and soft cut it into pieces about 1 inch wide by 2 to 2 1/2 inches long, or, if in rounds, into wedges, Scottish Style. Let the cut cookie cool before removing them from the baking sheet.

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