Wednesday, December 9, 2009

demerara shortbread

I have been on a shortbread kick recently. I love the sandy, crumbly goodness of shortbread squares. Years ago, I worked a booth at a trade show, and in the next booth, they were baking cookies. Right at the booth. And then dipping the shortbread in dark chocolate. Mmm... excuse the reverie...

Although I usually prefer a thick, traditional shortbread, I recently tried a King Arthur Flour recipe for Demerara Shortbread. These are thin, crisp, buttery cookies. The dough is rolled into a log, rolled in demerara sugar or sanding sugar, and then chilled, sliced, and baked. I chose this recipe to provide a pop of color to a tray of baked goods for a party, so I used a primarily-red, multicolored sanding sugar. They were actually delicious. My mother-in-law really liked them. My only objection is that I am not a huge fan of crisp cookies. However, the flavor was delicious and the sanding sugar around the edges added a nice crunch.

Here's how they looked:


Incidentally, these seem to strongly resemble French sables. There have been nearly identical pictures of sables all over Tastespotting this week. After some research, I can't quite figure out the difference between a roll-and-slice shortbread recipe and sables. Some sables seem to include egg yolk, but that's not exclusively the case. Anyone have further insight?

Here's how to make them:

Demerara Shortbread
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (5.25 ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/3 cups (10 ounces) flour
1 large egg white, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup (2 ounces) Demerara sugar or coarse sanding sugar

Cream together the butter, salt, sugar, and vanilla, and then beat in the flour. Shape the dough into a log that is 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Brush the log all over with the beaten egg white and roll it in the Demerara sugar or sanding sugar. Wrap the log and chill it until firm, at least 1 hour. You can easily chill it overnight, or even for a few days, so these are great if you want to get some of the prep work out of the way in advance. If you wanted to throw the dough log in the freezer, I'm sure that would work as well.

When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 300F. Line two baking sheets with silpats or parchment. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and slice it into 1/4"-thick rounds. I sometimes give the log a quarter-turn after a few slices so it retains a nice round shape.

Place the cookies on the baking sheet about an inch apart. They don't spread too much, but you want them to have space for the air to circulate. Bake them for 18-20 minutes or until they're light golden brown. Remove them from the oven and transfer them to a cookie rack to cool.

This recipe makes about 3 1/2 dozen cookies - maybe a few more or less depending on the thickness of your slices. (Yes, I tried using a ruler at first, but that's not necessary. Just gauge the thickness you want and try to cut them all about the same. If you cut them thicker, just increase the baking time by a few minutes.)

Note: Demerara sugar may also be called turbinado. I usually use the Sugar in the Raw found in the baking aisle of most grocery stores. It looks like light golden brown sanding sugar and tastes great.

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