Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Project 01: Can Shortbreads Be Flavorful?

Deprived of the ubiquitous grocery store cookies growing up in Hong Kong, I've not the pleasure in participating in the Oreos-and-milk ritual or tried the Keelber elves' many baked delights. The closest I got to cookies were Walkers Shortbread that my mom seemed to favor. As she looks for value in all her purchases, maybe the shortbread looked to be a good buy because it's so incredibly dense, as if the Walker family jammed butter and flour in a compacting machine to produce those bullion bars.

To me, they were decent, but I always wanted them to have some pizazz, some extra flavor other than plain ol' butter.

After many years, inspiration finally stuck when I read a back issue of Bon Appetit and fell upon Molly Wizenberg's Coffee Crunch Bars. A quick scan of her recipe revealed basic shortbread instructions with the addition of coffee, almond and almonds as flavoring agents. Simple, yet genius.

I tore out the recipe (don't worry, it was my copy) immediately and altered the recipe to my taste preference du jour, which is salted caramel.

First, I substituted bumped up the salt content with sea salt. Then, instead of almond extract, I added vanilla beans for a vanilla caramel taste. Lastly, I subbed out almonds for walnuts. Even though I'm not a cookie dough person, I dipped my finger in the bowl quite a few times...

Note: I baked the shortbread 10 minutes less than the recipe dictated since it was browning quickly. It seems others experience the same situation.

The end result was a happy success. The shortbread was delicate because of the thickness of the cookies, yet rich because of the ingreditents. The recipe makes 4 dozen squares, so I used the bulk of it for my friend's birthday present and split the rest with my fellow sugar junkies.

Give the recipe a try and make your own alterations!


  1. Those look delicious... it's as if chocolate chip cookies and Scottish shortbread mated and had a yummy offspring. I think traditional shortbread is meant to be dipped into tea or coffee, it's hard to eat more than one of them otherwise (reminds me of British digestives).

  2. Ooo... totally forgot about those. My favorite are the digestives dipped in chocolate.


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