Shortbread cookies hail from Normandy, France, aptly called Sables, alluding to their delicate sand like crumbly texture.
Traditional European short breads are a simple combination of butter, sugar, flour and salt. What could be easier, right? Well, yes and no. For this recipe it is well worth Looking for a salted European style butter that will provide the best flavor and crumbly texture for your pecan shortbread cookies. I have been using a domestic Danish Creamery Butter with sea salt for baking applications with excellent results. Listed are several other brands of European style butters that are generally available here in US supermarkets.
In America shortbread recipes evolved over the years, particularly in the deep south where locally grown pecans are plentiful. Pecans added to short breads and cookies lend a rich nutty butter pecan flavor note that everyone loves.
In the 1950’s The Keebler Company registered the name Sandies for their Pecan Sandies cookies that are a spin off of sorts 0ff of traditional shortbread cookies. They are tasty and still popular today.
That said, the essential shortbread ingredient, butter, has been omitted and replaced with palm and soy oils. What can I say other than butter is always the better choice for anything you planning to bake!
Butters made with cultured milk have a 2%higher butter fat content and a discernably richer flavor.
Listed are a few European style butters that are available in grocery stores here in the US.
Plugra salted European style butter (US) 8 oz. $ 2.38
President ( France) 7 oz. $13,95
Kerrygold (Ireland) 7 oz. $ 3.99
Danish Creamery salted (US) 16 oz. $ 6.79
Pecan Shortbread Cookies Makes 36 cookies
- 1 ½ cups pecans, finely chopped by hand
- 36 pecan halves, reserved
- 8 oz. European style salted butter, softened
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- ¼ cup fine granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, cognac, or B & B
- 2 cups all purpose flour
Finely hand chop the cup and a half of pecans and set aside.
Place the softened butter and the sugars in a large mixing bowl. Using a hand mixer set at medium low speed cream the butter and sugars until combined and creamy. Add the vanilla, cognac or B & B and beat until combined.
Then switching to a silicon spatula, begin folding the flour and chopped pecans alternately into the butter mixture until well combined. The texture will eventually come together. Once the mixture bonds together transfer the d dough to a long length of cling film on your work surface. Using both hands form the dough into a log shape that is about 15 inches in length And about 2 ½ inches in diameter. Wrap the cling film around the dough and lightly roll it back and forth to create an evenly shaped log. Twist the ends of the clingfilm tightly and flatten both ends. Transfer the dough to the refrigerator and chill for 1 ½ hours or until firm.
Meanwhile line 2 cookie sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 f / 180 c with the baking rack set in the center of the oven.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap the dough and place it on a cutting board. Slice the dough into 1/3 inch slices. Arrange the slices about 1 ½ inches apart on the baking sheets. Press a pecan half in the center of each cookie, pressing gently to secure them to the dough.
Transfer the tray to the oven and bake for 12 to 15 minutes. The cookies should be just set and lightly browned.
Promptly transfer the baking sheets to a cooling rack to rest for several minutes. You can then slip the mats with the cookies on it onto the cooling rack. and Set the baking sheet aside to cool before using for another batch of cookies.
Once the cookies are completely cool, store them in a nookie tin with a firm fitting lid for storage.
For norther recipe you might like to try Saigon Cinnamon Sables ( click here)
As uninteresting as a cauliflower soup may sound, here is an easy cauliflower soup that may persuade you otherwise.
With just a hint roosted roasted garlic, a dash of golden turmeric, a flurry of dried marjoram leaves, and a splash of lemon juice is what turns everything around and delivers a delightfully soothing, fresh, and warming winter cauliflower soup. The flavors are subtle but just assertive enough to win over any cauliflower skeptics at your table.
- 1 medium size head garlic, roasted
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 head cauliflower, trimmed and divided into florets
- 1 large potato, peeled and diced
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt + more to taste
- ½ teaspoon ground white pepper + more to taste
- 1 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 2 quarts vegetable or chicken stock, simmering
- broad leaf parsley leaves, thinly sliced, or whole cilantro leaves
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice per serving
Place the whole head of garlic in a 325 degree oven and roast just until the flesh is softened and fragrant, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside. When cool enough to handle separate the cloves and squeeze the garlic out of their skins and set aside.
Place a stock pot on the stove top set over medium high heat. When hot add the olive oil. When the oil is hot add the onions and sauté until the onions are translucent. Add the roasted garlic, and stir to combine. Add the cauliflower and potatoes and sauté for several minutes while tossing all the ingredients together. Add the turmeric, salt, white pepper, marjoram, and sugar and toss while sautéing for another 5 minutes.
Add about 1 ½ quarts of simmering stock to completely cover all the ingredients. Adjust the temperature and simmer for 30 minutes or until all the ingredients are very soft.
Using an immersion blender, blend the ingredients until the soup is thick and very smooth. Then add more stock until the soup is the consistency you prefer. Taste the soup and adjust seasoning to your liking.
When you are ready to serve the soup add the parsley or cilantro leaves and lemon juice and stir into the soup until combined
Ladle the soup into bowls and serve.
If you plan to serve the soup later, omit the parsley or cilantro and the lemon juice and set aside to aside to cool. Then transfer the soup to containers and cool on a rack before covering with lids and either refrigerate or freeze.
Be sure to remember to add the parsley or cilantro leaves and lemon juice just before serving the soup nonce it has been brought back to a full simmer before serving.
For none other than fond memories of holidays past I ordered several 16 ounce cans of French Puree des Chataignes, a sweetened chestnut puree that is more popular in Europe than the US. Very delicious spread on toast, waffles, French toast, mixed with ricotta for cannolis, with ice cream or gelato. and especially for a “Mont Blanc,”. A Mont Blanc is a celebratory French desert with a meringue base topped with swirls of piped chestnut puree crowned off with with a wintry blizzard of whipped cream peaks.
Feeling not quite that ambitious for a Christmas Eve supper I settled on making a more modest traditional French chestnut puree soufflé dessert that is topped with shaved chocolate. Very simple to prepare and happily it was received with great delight.
Following that thread the following week I decided to make Nigela Lawson’s Chocolate Chestnut Cake for a New Year supper that was met with oohs and ahhs, The consensus was that while Nigela’s chocolate chestnut cake was of course deliciously decadent, it was the simpler traditional chestnut soufflé’s beguiling flavor is what won everyone’s favor.
So while the chestnut puree soufflé is not exactly a visual feast on the plate it is it’s deliciousness that triumphs .
Sweetened chestnut puree is readily available on Amazon.
Chestnut Puree Soufflé dessert
preheat the oven to 350 f /180 c
Generously butter a medium soufflé dish or spring form pan.
- 16 ounces sweetened chestnut puree
- 3 ounces unsalted butter
- 6 eggs separated
- 1 tablespoon rum or brandy
- shaved chocolate
- powdered sugar
Melt the butter and set aside to cool.
Separate the eggs into separate mixing bowls and refrigerate bowl with the egg whites.
Whisk the egg yolks together with the chestnut puree until the mixture is thick and airy.
While continuing to whisk begin adding in small amounts of butter at a time while whisking until incorporated. Add the rum and whisk until combined and set aside.
Remove the egg whites from the refrigerator. Add a pinch of salt and using a whisk, or a hand held mixer, rapidly whisk the egg whites until they form firm peaks.
Then using a wide silicone spatula begin adding the egg whites, a generous dollop at a time to the chestnut puree mixture, gently fold in the whites in until they are incorporated before adding more egg whites. Continue until all of the whites are folded into the chestnut puree mixture. A few streaks of egg whites in the mixture are are fine.
Gently pour the batter into a buttered soufflé dish or spring form pan and place it gently in the center of the preheated oven.
Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, keeping an eye on the browning on the surface. If it’s browning too quickly open the oven door briefly and bake a little longer as needed.
Test by inserting a thin skewer gently into the center of the soufflé. If it comes out clean the soufflé is done
The soufflé will have puff up while baking but will fall once it transferred r to a rack to cool.
If you like add some shaved chocolate over the cooling surface of the soufflé.
A light dusting of powdered sugar just before serving is optional.
Today I want to share some of Wayne Thiebaud’s painterly confections which are as buoyant and beguiling as any baked creation you could ever possibly imagine!
Wayne Thieboud was a founding member of the Pop Art movement of the 60’s, along with Andy Warhol, Roy Licktanstein, Robert Rouschenberg, Jasper Johns, and others. His paintings stand apart and quietly occupy their own space. I like to think of him as the Morandi of pop art.
Wayne Thiebaud died on Christmas day this past week at 101 .