Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Vanilla Shortbread Cookies - Take Two

I have to thank Mandy from Fresh Out of the Oven.  I was reading her blog about Vanilla shortbread and knew that I had to make it.  I was hooked after reading the words, "Chef Thomas Keller".  He is the famed chef from the award winning restaurant, The French Laundry. I had the pleasure of dining in this most special restaurant - once.  I will never forget the morsels of food that graced my lips.  I was especially fond of the vanilla shortbread cookies that were given as a gift at the end of the meal.   As soon as I saw this recipe, I knew I had to bake these buttery wonders.  

I promptly went out and bought Claire Clark's Indulge: 100 Perfect Desserts.  Clair Clark happens to be Thomas Keller's pastry chef at The French Laundry.  Well, the recipes are written in the metric system.  So, my first try was a bit off.  Let's just say I didn't do a good job in the translation of the measurements.  The recipe is quite simple with only a few ingredients: butter, flour, caster sugar, and vanilla bean.  Because I didn't have caster sugar, I sifted granulated sugar.  I also don't think my flour to butter ratio was right.  As I was mixing the dough, it felt too sticky - almost as if there was too much butter.  I had a difficult time cutting out rounds.  I was hoping to use a small biscuit cutter to bake small little cookies.  It was just too sticky.  So, I began to shape them in long biscuits.  As they baked, they ignored all of my hopes and dreams.  They decided to flatten out and meld together. 

So, I did what any good friend would do - I scooped them up in a baggy and game them to my girlfriend Fran. She served them at tea, and said they were a hit.  She is such a good friend, always trying to salvage my ego.   At least they tasted yummy. 

Well,  I wasn't satisfied.  This bugged me for two days.  So, I went back to the drawing board - or back to my rolling pin. I surfed through cyberspace back to Fresh From the Oven and again gazed at how Mandy's shortbread came out so beautifully.  I was a little jealous.  So, I did what I should have done in the first place - I followed her adapted recipe.  Take a look at that beautiful cookie!  I was so happy.

Not only was the dough not sticky, I was able to roll it out perfectly.  It was a breeze to cut out my rounds.   You can see the tiny specks of vanilla throughout.  They smelled heavenly.  I decided to package them in little gift bags to give to a few girlfriends.  And yes, they tasted great.  Thank you, Mandy!

Vanilla Shortbread
originally by Indulge: 100 Perfect Desserts

225g/8 oz all purpose flour
75g/2 3/4 oz caster sugar
1 vanilla pod
150g/ 5 1/2 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
50g/ 1 3/4 oz granulated sugar, for dusting

(Mandy's conversions)
1 3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
1 vanilla pod
11 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
granulated sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Sift the flour and confectioners' sugar into a large mixing bowl. Using a sharp knife, slit the vanilla pod open lengthways and scrape out the seeds with the tip of the knife.  Add the seeds to the bowl, along with the butter.  Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the dry ingredients.  As the mixture begins to come together, use your hands to help it form a dough.  Shape the dough into a ball and flatten it slightly.  Roll out on a lightly floured surface to about 1/2 inch thick.  Cut into your desired shape and place them on a baking sheet lined with a silpat or parchment paper.  Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the baking sheet around and continue baking for 10 minutes, until the shortbread is golden brown. Remove from the oven and dust with an even coating of granulated sugar.  Leave on baking sheet to cool.  


Mandy said...

good job, Renee! I am so proud of you! I am so envious that you have been to French Laundry and tried the real thing!!

Renee said...

Thanks, Mandy! After yours looked so wonderful, I had to give it a go....

The French Laundry rocks - expensive but worth every penny.

MrOrph said...

Nice Renee! I think I am getting a cavity just looking at these.

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