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~ Esther's Buttery Sugar-Topped Pecan Shortbread ~

IMG_1447Esther's been a friend of ours for over 40 years.  Last Tuesday morning she stopped over for coffee -- after a year of quarantine, it was not only great to see her again, it felt great to invite a friend into the kitchen for a person-to-person visit.  I made some of my super-easy Grand's cinnamon-rolls cups, which got the two of us chit-chatting about quick-and-easy sweet treats that go great with the first cup of AM caffeine.  Esther mentioned a shortbread recipe she makes a lot, as in: for all occasions.  I asked her for the recipe and I wrote it down as she dictated it.

A bit about shortbread & shortbread cookies in general: 

Throughout the United Kingdom, shortbread has been a tradition at tea time since medieval days. As the name implies, shortbread contains shortening in the the form of butter, plus sugar and flour -- more specifically, one part sugar, two parts butter, and, three parts white flour.  After this super-easy to make dough is mixed together, it can be be baked in several forms.  Many home cooks pat the dough into one or two flat, round discs that get cut into wedges as soon as they emerge from the oven.  Most manufacturers bake it in rectangular molds then cut it into fingers.  Because the dough holds shapes very well, it's ideal for either cut- or drop- cookies that can be patterned/decorated with the simple tines of a fork or an elaborate stamp.  It's common for various extracts, citrus oils and/or aromatic spices to be used as subtle flavorings.  In all cases, shortbread is baked in a moderate oven to render its signature pale ever-so-slightly brown color.

Ready, set, mix & in the oven to bake in less than 15 minutes.

IMG_13812  cups all-purpose, unbleached flour

1/2  cup sugar

6  tablespoons cornstarch, do not pack it, just measure it

2  sticks salted butter

2  teaspoons pecan flavoring

2  teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

3/4  cup small-chopped lightly-toasted pecans, or, honey-glazed candied pecans, your choice (4 ounces)

IMG_1370 IMG_1370 IMG_1370~ Step 1.  In a 2-cup measuring container, melt butter in microwave.  Stir in the pecan flavoring, vanilla extract and salt.  Set aside.

IMG_1385 IMG_1385 IMG_1385 IMG_1393 IMG_1393 IMG_1393 IMG_1403 IMG_1403~Step 2.  Place the flour, sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl.  Using a large rubber spatula, stir the dry ingredients together.  Add the melted, flavored butter to the dry ingredients.  Esther said to use a hand-held electric mixer to incorporate the butter into the flour mixture, but, I didn't find it necessary -- I used the rubber spatula to incorporate the butter and it alone worked just fine.  You will have a ball of somewhat-sticky dough.  Add and fold in the toasted or candied pecans. 

IMG_1411 IMG_1411 IMG_1419~Step 3.  Transfer dough to an 11" x 7 1/2" x 2" 2-quart casserole.  Using the back of rubber spatula, press  dough evenly into bottom of dish.  Bake on center rack of 325° oven until just set and barely brown, 25-30 minutes.

IMG_1419 IMG_1419 IMG_1419 IMG_1427 IMG_1427~Step 4.  Remove from oven and place casserole on a wire cooling rack. Using a large chef's knife, slice the shortbread, while it is hot, into 24 squared, then, while it is hot, sprinkle with a light coating of granulated sugar.  Allow shortbread to cool to room temperature about 1-2 hours prior to slicing through it a second time and removing from casserole.

Slightly-salty & slightly-sweet -- shortbread squares go great w/coffee, tea, hot chocolate, milk &/or ice-cream:

IMG_1444Esther's Buttery Sugar-Topped Pecan Shortbread:  Recipe yields 24, 1 1/2"-1 3/4" squares.

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; 2-cup measuring container; hand-held electric mixer (optional); large rubber spatula; 11" x 7 1/2" x 2", 2-quart casserole; wire cooling rack

6a0120a8551282970b0263e9818d18200bCook's Note:  Shortbread is one of my top three cookies, and, for that reason a box of Lorna Doone's is always in my pantry.   Making a cheesecake pie is a quick way to quell a craving for classic cheesecake.  Sometimes known as poor man's cheesecake, this particular easy-to-make, lightly-baked cheesecake pie is remarkably resemblant of a New York-style cheesecake, complete with a two-ingredient, Lindy's-type short-pastry cookie-type crust -- meaning, not a run-of-the-mill graham cracker crust:  ~ Cheesecake Pie w/Lorna Doone Shortbread Crust ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2021)


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