Sunday, July 3, 2011

Shortbread, Smidgens of Amelie, Pigeons!

I've had a quiet weekend so far, but two awesome things of note:

1. We had a UChicago joint meetup for the class of 2014 (my year) and the incoming students of the class of 2015. It was mostly '14 people, and only seven of us, but it was really fun. We walked around, chilled in parks, and ate Ukrainian, Indian and baked foods. A good day. There were also some interesting sights, like this man at Washington Square Park playing songs including the songs from Amelie on a grand piano:

                                          A piano in one of NYC's most trafficked parks

 But, more prescient for me to tell you:

2. I made them shortbread.

Shortbread is an awesome type of cookie. It's buttery and tender and delicious and wonderfully tasty (if horrifically unhealthy). It's also an incredibly flexible cookie recipe.

For this meetup, I made lemon shortbread, the recipe to which I've attached below the photo.

                                          Fresh out of the oven and cooling on parchment paper.
                                         (They're not stuck together, they shifted post-removal)
Lemon Shortbread
Makes about 36 cookies. Sorry about the schizo metric mixing

1 cup butter, softened (this is about two sticks)
1 cup sugar
zest and juice of 2 lemons
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon rosemary (brings out the flavor of the lemon)
a good glug of vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus a bit extra for dough kneading and cutting

Preheat the oven to 325F/165C. Line a pan or two with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until you get a consistent, blended mixture. This is more easily achieved with a mixer of some sort, but you can do it with manual devices, or even by hand. Once they're creamed, add the lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, rosemary, and vanilla extract to the butter mixture and mix in thoroughly. Add the flour in and mix until you have a consistently textured, fluffy-looking dough, which will probably be in little balls.

Flour a cutting board and a rolling pin, and wet your hands a little. Empty the bowl onto the board and push the dough together into one ball. Knead a few times to get it incorporated. Flatten the dough with a rolling pin to about a 1-1.25cm thickness. You may need to reflour the rolling pin so that the dough does not stick.

Cut the shortbread into squares or shapes of your desired size, but I recommend squares of about 2-4cm on one side. Place them on the parchment paper, giving each of them a bit of room - 1.5-3cm around - to breathe.

Place into the oven, and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the edges begin to brown. Take out and cool. Apparently, they keep in an airtight container for a few days, but they were all consumed within 24 hours so I wouldn't know.

Based on Mark Bittman's recipe in How To Cook Everything and Nicole at Pinch My Salt:
The meetup people really enjoyed these cookies, but I made a few too many. We gave some of them - along with Jane's incredible "tiger stripe" muffins (carrot top, brownie bottom) - to passerby, as well as feeding at least one of the cookies and several muffins to some pigeons in Union Square park. Here's a picture of the feeding frenzy:

Jane feeding the pigeon swarm that will soon increase to a much larger size.

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