sexta-feira, 12 de dezembro de 2008

pecan shortbread cookies

Shortbread is a type of biscuit (cookie) which is traditionally made from one part white sugar, two parts butter, and three parts flour. It is so named because of its crumbly texture, from an old meaning of the word short. The cause of this texture is its high fat content, provided by the butter. The related word "shortening" refers to any fat that may be added to produce a short (crumbly) texture. The recipe asks for 3 sticks of butter, but hey, it's the holidays...

Shortbread is not to be confused with shortcake, which is similar to shortbread but made using vegetable fat instead of butter, giving it a different texture. By coincidence, it is now understood that the short or crumbly texture is a result of the fact that the fat inhibits the formation of long protein (gluten) strands.

Though it's now a year-round favorite, this tender-crisp, butter-rich cookie was once associated mainly with Christmas. The classic way to make shortbread is to press the dough into a shallow earthenware mold that is decoratively carved. After baking, the large round cookie is turned out of the mold and cut into wedges. Today, more often then not, the cookies are formed into simple squares or rounds.

pecan shortbread cookies

  • 3 sticks of unsalted butter
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups small-diced pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the butter and the sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla and almond extracts. in a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter and sugar mixture. Add the pecans and mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.
Roll the dough 1/2 inch thick and cut into 2 1/2 inch squares or rounds with a plain or fluted cutter. Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the edges begin to brown. I always do a test with just one cookie to find the precise timing.
Allow to cool to room temperature and serve. Makes 20 to 24 cookies.

sábado, 6 de dezembro de 2008

roquefort-honey ice cream with roasted pears

If not the "king of cheeses" as some proclaim, Roquefort is at least one of the oldest and best known in the world. This blue cheese has been enjoyed since Roman times, and it is made with sheep's milk that is exposed to a mold and aged for three months or more in the limestone caverns of Mount Combalou near the village of Roquefort in southwestern France. Roquefort has a creamy-rich texture with a pungent, sharp, somewhat salty flavor.
This amazing combination of flavors will certainly surprise you. It's one of those ice cream recipes you can't stop having because of its sweet and salty complexity. A great way to serve it is to roast pears with some honey and vanilla. Not only do they taste delicious together, but the combination does double-duty as the cheese course and dessert. I haven't tried it yet, but I'm sure roasted fresh figs would work just as well.

You can substitute the Roquefort with a favorite blue cheese. Just be mindful that their salt content and creaminess vary. If you are using raw honey or a strong-flavored one, use the smaller amount indicated. You can always add more honey to taste at the end of the process.

roquefort-honey ice cream

  • 6 to 8 Tbsp good honey
  • 4 oz Roquefort cheese
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Warm the honey in a small saucepan, then set aside. Crumble the cheese into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer over the top.

Warm the milk in a medium saucepan. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warm egg yolks back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until it thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cheese. Stir until most of the cheese is melted (leaving some small cheese bits is a good thing). Stir in the cream and honey.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze in your ice cream machine according to its instructions. Serve with honey roasted pears (recipe follows). Makes 3 cups.

honey-roasted pears:

  • 4 ripe bosc or comice pears, quartered lengthwise and cored
  • 3 Tbsp cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup good honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, halved

Preheat the oven to 450.
Place the pears and walnuts in a large, heavy skillet.
Drizzle with honey and dot with butter. Sprinkle with vanilla over the pears and set the pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast for 15 minutes. Serves 4 to 8.