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!