Monday, May 15, 2006

very short shortbread

This is a post that meanders from eating local, because I wanted to do The Spice is Right II, hosted by Barbara at Tigers and Strawberries, and I got fixated on the idea of a sweet shortbread cookie that used a savory spice. Pretty much nothing in this shortbread is local, although the spices are old friends, and have lived at my house for a fair amount of time.
My chosen spice is chile. In the food culture of my childhood, which I would characterize as '50s cooking (meatloaf, angelfood cake, jello with various things in it) along with a sprinkling of Slovak dishes like stuffed cabbage and kolachke, chili powder was something used exclusively for chili--my mother made a distinctly unhot but flavorful version with 2 colors of kidney beans. Chili powder came in only one variety, and was seen as somewhat exotic.
As an adult, I became enamored of all things hot and spicy, and I have come to love the varieties of chile--pasilla, ancho, chipotle--my refrigerator is cluttered with little tubs from the spice stand at the market. I chose my all-around favorite, chipotle, to highlight my chocolate shortbread.
It didn't turn out quite right--I have to admit that, although I feel like my mother when I say it. She was always turning compliments away with a recital of what had gone wrong with a dish--"I forgot the butter until the last minute," or "I didn't beat it long enough--it should have been higher"--that kind of thing, although no one else could tell that anything was wrong. But although the shortbread is really good, I think it's a little too short, meaning proportionally too much butter (and why is this short? does it have to do with shortening? why is shortening called shortening? things to ponder). They look a lot like brownies, but are unlike them in texture--they have the sandiness of shortbread, although they're a little too crumbly.
The recipe is a little muddy (I put it together from 2 other recipes, one from Joy of Cooking and one from Martha Stewart), and although I'm including it, it's with a disclaimer--I'd change it the next time I made them. But I will make them next time, because apart from their too-shortness and their tendency to crumble, they were heavenly in taste, very chocolatey and spicy and buttery.
Chocolate Chipotle Shortbread
2 sticks butter
about a cup of sugar (used half granulated and half confectioner's)
1/2 cup cocoa
2 squares unsweetened chocolate, melted
generous pinch of salt
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 and 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp chipotle powder (use less if you're not a big fan of heat)
a pinch ginger
1/4 tsp dried rosemary, crushed to a powder
Cream the butter, then add the sugar and cream that into the butter. Add cocoa and salt, stir to combine, then add the melted chocolate. At this point I tasted it to see if it seemed sweet enough--the cup of sugar measurement is an approximation, because I didn't want it to be too sweet, so I added it until it seemed OK.
Mix cornstarch, flour, and the spices and rosemary. Mix into butter/chocolate mixture.
Pat into an ungreased square pan (I used an 8 by 8, but 9 by 9 would probably have been better, since they came out a little thick). Bake at 325 for about 35 minutes. Use a toothpick to see if the shortbread is done--it should come out cleanish, but with perhaps a crumb on it--nothing sticky.
The shortbread is supposed to be cut while warm--and it looks quite floppy and soft when you do it. But it firmed up enough to be respectably cooky-like.
As I said, the flavor is intensely chocolatey, with a nice bite of pepper, backed up by the ginger. The rosemary could probably be left out, but I liked its piney-ness with the chocolate. When you bite in, it has a cookie feel in your mouth, and the shortbread sandy crumb, but it melts to a mouthful of spicy smooth chocolate--very nice.


erieblue said...

How odd that you cut it warm. Isn't that against all other instruction?

Jeanne said...

OMG, that sounds perfectly divine! I've had chocolate chilli fudge, but never cookies. I will certainly have to try this (although the chipotle powder might be tricky in England...)

lucette said...

If you do try it, 1 tsp of chipotle powder is a lot--I like it, but not everyone would. You could easily use less, or even use a milder chile powder.

Brian Kornell said...

That does sound really good. I grew up with the same kind of cooking that you did. Salt was the only "spice" my parents used in cooking. Now I love anything spicy.

erieblue said...

I went to Lucette's house last night and the shortbread was very good--not too spicy at all (and I don't like hot).

Birdsong said...

Wow, this is just the kind of recipe that gets me breaking my vows not to eat sugar! I have been using Dagoba's chocolate with chiles powder to cook with, and just love the mix of flavors.