Scottish Shortbread.

Scottish shortbread and black tea are good friends. Ever since they first met, they’ve just clicked. They try to hang out as much as possible, but sometimes it’s hard to find a free afternoon. So next time shortbread wants to get together with tea, offer up your kitchen as a meeting place. Then, while they’re chatting away, quietly sneak up behind them…and chow down. Trust me, they’ll never see it coming. And this shortbread recipe (from one by Lorraine Pascale) will definitely help you forget how much butter you just ate.

INGREDIENTS

1 1/4 sticks butter, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp brown rice flour (this gives a nice texture, but feel free to substitute with all-purpose flour)
pinch of salt

DIRECTIONS

Cream together butter and sugar. In a separate bowl,  combine flours and salt. Add flour mixture to butter and sugar in 3 parts, stirring between each addition. The texture of the dough should be very crumbly but hold together when pressed.

Now, press the dough evenly into a pan. I recommend a spring-form pan or a tart tin with a loose bottom, so that you’ll be able to remove the crumbly shortbread without breaking it. If you’re not using a tart tin, crimp the sides with your fingers so that you have a pretty little border. Then, use a knife to draw 8 pizza-shape segments, and pierce each segment a few times with a fork. Place dough in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Just before the 30 minutes is up, preheat oven to 325 F. Remove shortbread from oven and bake for about 30 minutes, until just starting to turn golden. Cool completely, slice carefully (it’s very crumbly), and serve with tea–but give the friends a minute to say hello before you start to nibble elegantly.

Hazelnut Chocolate Cookies.

I found these cookies on smitten kitchen, and today was the perfect day to try them out. One thing that makes these so special is that, since the batter contains roasted hazelnuts, the kitchen starts to smell good long before you start the actual baking! And here’s a heads-up on a possible future post: I think my sister was on to something when she pointed out that this batter would make a heavenly pie crust.

INGREDIENTS

1 cup hazelnuts
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup brown rice flour (all-purpose flour works just fine, too)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 egg
1 tbsp vanilla
handful of chocolate chips/discs/whatever shape your baking chocolate is

DIRECTIONS

Heat a pan on medium high and roast hazelnuts until fragrant but not browned or burned. Spread them out on a cutting board or sheet pan to cool.

In a food processor, pulse together cooled hazelnuts, sugar, flour, and salt until it reaches the texture of a not-quite-fine powder.

Transfer nuts and flour to a mixing bowl and stir in butter, egg, and vanilla. Cover and refrigerate 45 minutes to firm.

Preheat oven to 350 F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Remove dough from the fridge, form into balls, arrange on cookie sheet, and place back in the fridge to cool for another 15 minutes.

Remove dough from fridge. Make a small, shallow indentation in the center of each cookie and fill with chocolate (chips, discs, whatever). Place on middle rack and bake for about 12 minutes, until firm in the middle and golden around the bottom. When the cookies are done, remove them from the oven but let them cool on their baking sheet, without touching them, for 5 minutes, so that they firm up and hold together. Enjoy with a cup of hot chocolate or a glass of red wine!