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Bread That Is Short

Rosemary Shortbread I've been on a big shortbread kick lately.  I think it's mostly because they are the buttery little chameleons of the cookie world.  I can be digging around on the spice shelf of our pantry and get about two dozen ideas for accessorizing a basic shortbread recipe, and then the challenge simply becomes choosing which one I want to make first. Over the New Year's Holiday, I stumbled across a recipe for a Parmesan shortbread with rosemary.  Savory and herbaceous, it sounded like a lovely alternative for all of the sweet I usually generate in the kitchen.  I decided to swap out the Parmesan for three-month aged Manchego cheese, which is a sheep milk cheese from Spain.  I pressed a whole blanched almond into the top of each shortbread round, though in retrospect, I wish I had had some Marcona almonds on hand instead.  The finished product was light and buttery, and deliciously herbaceous, with a nice little touch of texture from the almond.  I took it a step further and spread some quince paste on them as I ate them and it was quite a delicious homage to a country I have yet to visit.  The shortbread were accompanied by a glass of Juan Gil Jumilla, some jumbo olives that I stuffed with the aforementioned Marcona almonds, and an assortment of Spanish goat and sheep milk cheeses for an evening of tapas with friends. Ingredients:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup grated Manchego cheese (or any Spanish cheese of your choosing)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • blanched almonds (or Marcona almonds)
  • quince paste (optional, for serving)
Put the flour, sugar, rosemary, salt and Manchego into a bowl and whisk until combined.  Add the butter and cut it into the flour mixture until a soft dough forms.  You will likely need to add the water to get it to hold together. There are a couple of different ways to prepare your shortbread for baking.  The first method is to put the dough on a sheet of plastic wrap, forming it into a loose log.  Roll the dough log in the plastic wrap and twist the ends securely, then chill it in the refrigerator until it is firm - about one hour.  After it has set, cut the log into 1/4" to 1/2" disks, placing them on a cookie sheet.  When I prepared the dough, I simply rolled tablespoon-sized balls of it, setting them on a cookie sheet.  I placed one blanched (or Marcona) almond on the top of each ball, then pressed them flat with the floured bottom of a glass.  When they were all prepared, I set the cookie sheets in the refrigerator to let them set for one hour. Bake the cookies in a 375 degree oven for about 12 to 14 minutes.  The edges will just begin to turn golden brown.  Cool the shortbread on the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.  Spread with quince paste before eating. The cookies will keep in an airtight container for about a week. ~Sara

Cookies & Cream Cupcakes

I stress, therefore I bake. There's something very comforting to me about baking.  Maybe it's the fact that I can take a handful of ingredients, throw them into a bowl, and know that in about an hour I will end up with something that, at worst, tastes okay or, at best, is toe-curlingly orgasmic.  Maybe it's a control thing.  I don't know.  I just know that I'm fairly good at it and there is a group of people who have been known to enjoy the fruits of my panic attacks on a regular basis.  I like to think that I'm only doing it because I've been commissioned by the IT department at work to make birthday cupcakes each month, but I suppose when the sh*t hits the proverbial fan, you will be most likely to find me in the kitchen covered in flour and eggs. This month's birthday boy made a request for a white cake.  My immediate response was utter annoyance that I would be asked to make something so... simple.  Boring.  Blah.  Well, if he wanted simple, I was going to give him simple. I hit up my go-to source for simple, easy recipes - Cupcakes from the Cake Mix Doctor - and settled on Cookies & Cream Cupcakes.  It starts with a white cake mix base, and then crushed Oreos are folded in for that little bit of extra oomph.  A nice basic buttercream frosting tops it all off, along with a little bit more of the crushed Oreos. It ended up being anything but simple.  And yet, the simplicity of an Oreo cookie is something that any level of snack connoisseur can enjoy.  The cupcake is delightfully creamy and rich, which makes it the perfect companion to a tall glass of cold milk, much like the cookie that inspired it.