Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sigh - Irish Shortbread

My roommate thinks I am beginning to lose my marbles.  My boyfriend offered to buy me a bag of them as a gift to celebrate our 2nd anniversary.  I am, by now, completely convinced that mine are gone.

Last week, the building manager warned us that we would need to clear the floor of our lab for cleaning and servicing.  When I asked what we could do with the robots, he said to put them on the tables.  Alas, he greatly underestimated our table space and boxes of stuff.  To add insult to injury, the team (the club he advises) who shares our space only uses it as an office.  They have an entire machine shop across the hall to store their things at leisure.  

Of course, I forgot about this and only remembered about midnight Tuesday night as I checked my email.  Cursing mentally, I changed back into my clothes at lightning speed, told some friends I'd be gone and stalked angrily across the empty campus about midnight.  For the next hour, I shuffled chairs onto tables, balanced boxes on chairs and finally shoved each robot into a corner.  I finally stormed back across campus at one in the morning.  I would have pitied any poor soul who thought to try to mug me then.

Luckily, we were rewarded the next afternoon with a sparkling floor and a never-before-seen shine.  Not so luckily, I believe the floor wax managed to react with the rubber tires and leave an interesting yellow stain on the floor, resembling robot tire-footprints. Also, our Electrical Team Leader managed to drip hot solder on the freshly waxed floor, decorating with blobs of silver.  And very soon the floor will lose its amazing glow when people resume standing on it.

But there is very little cannot be soothed with sugar and butter in my world, and sometimes I prefer my sins in the purest form.  In moderation, of course.  And so I bring you this wonderful recipe for Irish Shortbread, borrowed from David Lebovitz.  An interesting man who was a pastry chef and now lives in Paris, he made a trip to Ireland a few years back.  Like the other culinary delights he tried, this one is best made with Irish butter.  However, the budget of a college student sometimes cannot be swayed, and this shortbread was made with American butter from a nearby grocery store.  It still turned out splendid.

Irish Shortbread barely tweaked from David Lebovitz's blog Living the Sweet Life in Paris
Makes 1 9" round pan (12 wedges)

cups all-purpose flour
½ cup cornstarch
½ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt (I used cheap iodized salt, 3 individual packets)
1 cup (2 sticks) very cold salted butter (you could substitute unsalted butter)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large mixing bowl
1 wooden spoon
1 rubber spatula
1 butter knife (for cutting the butter into chunks)
1 9" round tart, pie or cake pan


1. Preheat the oven to 300°F.  Grease the pan with some of the butter.

2. Mix together the flour, cornstarch, sugar and salt.  Cut the butter into cubes and toss with the flour, then use the wooden spoon to cream together all the ingredients.  

3. When the dough becomes soft and creamy, add the vanilla and mix until completely combined.  Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

4. Plop the dough in the middle of the prepared pan and slowly work your way outward, spread the layer evenly.  Try to make the top as smooth as possible.  

5. Using a thin knife (plastic if you have a nonstick pan and you can get one without the strengthening rib), score the top of the shortbread into 12 equal wedges.  Prick the tops with a fork and bake at 300°F for about 1 hour.  Enjoy!

I'm still working on getting used to the camera my boyfriend's family was kind enough to lend me. 
But the shortbread is so lovely... So very buttery and rich.  And delicious. 

The dough for this shortbread is unlike any I have ever made before.  Rather than crumbly and needing to be pressed into the pan, it was wet, more like very thick cake batter.  I easily spread it into the pan. 

Since the dough is so wet, the resulting product is very buttery.  It's delicious, but for once I prefer my shortbread a tad less rich.  In this recipe, I increased the amount of flour by a ¼ cup.

Next time, I might try to use brown sugar instead of white.  The white sugar is purely sweet, augmented by the vanilla, but brown sugar gives a wonderful toffee taste that has worked well in previous shortbreads I have made.

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