Thursday, August 14, 2008

40. Dark Chocolate Shortbread (p. 688)

As I was flipping through The Book this past Sunday morning, I came across this recipe, and I decided to make it on the spot because I happened to have all of the ingredients on hand and it looked pretty easy to make.

The short list of ingredients is made up of all "pantry items" like butter, superfine sugar, vanilla, salt, all-purpose flour and Dutch process cocoa powder. I wasn't sure whether the Hershey's coca powder in my cupboard was "Dutch process" or not, so I took a chance. Apparently, I was wrong. Dutch process cocoa is treated with an alkali to neutralize its natural acidity. Hershey's is unalkalized, but I don't think that it made a difference, since I thought that the shortbread came out just fine. Based on what I read on the Internets, the Dutch/non-Dutch issue probably only makes a big difference when you need it to cooperate with baking powder, and when you want to make sure that the chocolate taste isn't too bitter.

You start by mashing the softened butter, sugar, vanilla and salt together with a fork (I used a potato masher, 'cause I wasn't messin' around). Then you sift the flour and cocoa over the mixture and keep on mashing until it forms a soft dough. You divide the dough in two and pat it into two six inch circles on an ungreased baking sheet. (Yes, I used a ruler, do you wanna make something of it?) You put the baking sheet, uncovered, in the refrigerator for about a half hour for it to firm up a bit. When my wife saw the baking sheet with two circles of dough on it, she asked, sensibly enough I guess, "Are you making one for me and one for you?"

Then you put it in the oven for 15 minutes "until centers are dry to the touch and edges are slightly darker." I was a little concerned about this because I was using a non-stick baking sheet, which has a tendency to make things brown too fast, so I kept an eagle-eye on my oven temperature, and I pulled the cookies out before they got too crispy around the edges. You cool the shortbread on the baking sheet for about ten minutes, and then, while it's still warm, you cut each round into eight wedges with a large, heavy knife. I did this very carefully so as not to scratch my baking sheet. Then you transfer the wedges to a rack to cool completely.

I liked these cookies quite a bit. They were buttery and chocolatey with that familiar shortbread texture. While they were very crumb-y, they weren't too fragile. (My wife even made a little ice cream sandwich by putting some vanilla-fudge ice cream in between two wedges. Yum!) I though that they tasted like flat, crispy brownies. My wife said that they were like "fancy Oreos." Either way, they were pretty good and they're easy enough to satisfy an emergency chocolate craving if you've got some basic ingredients on hand and about an hour to spare.

Date Cooked: August 10, 2008
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
Rating: B

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