Shortbreads Tested Recipe
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Raisin Shortbreads had been in my head for months, ever since I saw a recipe in
Alice Waters' Chez Panisse Fruit Cookbook. The thought of soft and chewy
raisins sandwiched between two layers of tender and crumbly shortbread sounded
too good to pass by. So when a cool and rainy day happened along (perfect day
for baking), I went out and bought a good unsalted butter and some Thompson
raisins and made the recipe. I wasn't disappointed. They tasted every bit as
good as they sounded so I just had to share this recipe with you. These raisin
shortbread fingers go perfectly with a hot cup of tea or coffee and I also think
they would be a nice addition to your Christmas baking.
I know I have said this more than once, but
I think it bears repeating. The quality of your shortbread is dependent on
the quality of your ingredients, especially the butter. Therefore, buy the
best unsalted butter you can find and you will be rewarded with a crispy,
crumbly, and buttery shortbread that literally melts in your mouth. Another
important ingredient is vanilla extract. Make sure that what you buy is
labeled "pure". The best I have found, although it is quite expensive, is
Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract that can be found in
specialty food stores and by mail order. If your budget doesn't allow this
expenditure or you cannot find it, don't worry, there are quality brands to
be found in your local grocery store. Just stay away from the ones
labeled "imitation" vanilla extracts as they are made with synthetic
vanilla (from glycoside found in the sapwood of certain conifers or from
coal extracts) and leave a bitter aftertaste.
A shortbread batter is quick to make, and
this recipe is no exception. It starts by creaming the butter with the
vanilla extract and confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar. (When you use
confectioners sugar, instead of granulated white sugar, it gives the
shortbread a softer crumb.) Once the beaten butter and sugar turn
light and fluffy, the flour is
added and mixed until a dough is formed. Then divide the dough in half and
press one half onto the bottom of a well greased 9 x 13 (23 x 33 cm) pan. A
layer of dark raisins are then pressed into the shortbread. (I have used
dark Thompson raisins which are simply dried Thompson seedless grapes which
have been sun dried which gives them that dark shriveled appearance.
Raisins, like dates, have a high sugar content, and are a good source of
vitamins and iron.) The remaining dough is pressed on top of the raisins,
and then it is brushed with a glaze of lightly beaten egg. The final step
is to run the tines of a fork through the egg washed shortbread which adds
a decorative touch. Once the Raisin Shortbreads are baked in a moderate
oven until lightly golden brown, they are cooled, and then cut into long
thin rectangular shaped shortbread "fingers".
Raisin Shortbreads: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
Butter (or spray with a non stick vegetable spray) a 9 x 13 inch (23 x 33 cm) baking pan.
In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand
mixer), beat the butter and vanilla extract until smooth and creamy (about
one minute). Add the
sugar and beat until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl whisk the flour with
the salt and then
add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat
until the dough just comes together.
Divide the dough
into two halves, making one half slightly larger than the other half. Spread the
smaller half of dough over the bottom of the
prepared pan and gently press the dough, with your fingertips or the back of a
spoon, to form an even layer. Sprinkle the raisins evenly over the dough and
gently press the raisins into the dough. Take the other half of dough and
using your fingers, crumble it over the top of the
raisins. Then lightly press the dough into an even layer.
Take the lightly
beaten egg and, using a pastry brush, coat the top of the shortbread with the
egg wash. Then, with the tines of a fork, slowly drag the fork back and forth
across the shortbread to make a decorative pattern.
shortbread for about 30 - 40 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove from
oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Cut the shortbread into about 1 x 3 inch
(2.5 x 7.5 cm) rectangular bars.
Makes about 32 shortbread fingers
Chez Panisse Fruit.
Harper Collins. New York: 2002.
1 cup (226 grams) unsalted
butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure
1 cup (120 grams) confectioners (powdered or icing)
2 1/2 cups (325 grams) all-purpose
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups (260 grams) dark raisins
1 large egg, lightly beaten