Shortbread, Shortbread, Everywhere

I’ve been on the hunt for a perfect shortbread recipe.  Alas, I’ve not found thee perfect one.  Crunchy shortbread: why must you be so elusive?

I’m working on a new bar, you see.  I imagine a crisp cookie layer, topped with caramel, gloved in dark chocolate, topped with Maldon Sea salt.  The type of thing that makes a person all giggly inside.  Inspiration is, of course, drawn from a classic combination of my childhood that I dare not touch as an adult.  You know which bar I’m talkin’ ’bout.  I won’t eat it not because I’m a snob–ok, ok, I might be a little snobby–but because the memory of it tastes so much better than the actual bar.  In fact, that’s why I’ve turned to candy-making, because the memories of classic ‘merican candy-bars taste so much better than the actual bars.  But memories can’t be eaten, so I turn to candy thermometers and Valrhona chocolate galore in search of something better, in search of something real.

Fast forward several months and here I am: meticulously tinkering with half a dozen shortbread recipes in search of gold.  Butter gold.  I think I’ve found it.

First, the laundry list of fail-narwhals.

I first went with dear Dorie Greenspan’s Cornmeal Shortbread Cookie recipe.  The recipe teased me with promises of crunchy, so I went for it.  She is a goddess and I a lowly minion, how could this not work, right?  Indeed, the cookie was crunchy, but it must have been the stone-ground cornmeal I used because ultimately the cookies were crunchy in the wrong way: I was left chewing on grains of cornmeal.  The search continued.

Like thousands of other foodies and cook-ies, I double love Smitten Kitchen.  So I was pleased to see Deb pop up as the second hit when I googled “crunchy shortbread”.  But fie, when I read through the post I was unconvinced for the recipe was relegated to the cabinet of “lost recipes” for months before she posted it.  I tried it anyway and as delicious as it was, it did not turn out for me.  The crumb was a kiss too tender, and it yielded a shortbread that was entirely too thick for my purposes.  Onward.

After trying Sue Lawrence’s recipe and researching countless others, I was convinced I was on the right path.  I made a spreadsheet and compared and contrasted ingredients trying to figure out what different ratios and different ingredients do for a shortbread cookie.  I also noted that shortbreads seem to fall into two distinct camps: that of the crunchy and that of the sandy.  Crunchy is, well, more crunchy.  And “sandy” is supposed to be more melt in your mouth.  Folk on the internets seem to have an affinity for one or the othe, but not both–a shortbread tale of Montagues and Capulets, as it were.

Tinker, tinker, tinker, and I end up fashioning my own recipe. Nietzsche would be proud.  Now what remains to be seen is whether or not it works in the caramel+shortbread bar–oh mereology!

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