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.

6 comments:

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.