If you follow this blog you probably already know how I feel about shortbread. I think of it as the little black dress of the baking world — elegant, effortless, and delicious. It’s endlessly variable both in terms of flavor and form, and it’s always going to be a favorite of mine. I guess I mostly make it slice and bake style, but you can bake it square, like I did today, or round and slice it like pie. You can also form little hand shaped cookies for a more rustic look. The original Scottish shortbread is made with just butter, sugar, and flour, and it’s almost unbelievable that something so simple can taste so good. Classic shortbread has a crumbly texture, but because of all the butter it’s not at all dry, and actually melts in your mouth. With a good basic shortbread recipe you’re pretty much set in the dessert department; you can adjust it to fit any occasion, from bake sale, to host/hostess gift, to grand finale for an elegant dinner party. The one negative is that it’s VERY hard to stop eating it once you start.
I start making shortbread in fall and continue through the winter. At the end of the season I move on, only to rediscover it again the following year. I love baking that way, it means that every time I revisit an old favorite, the craving for it is fresh again. I dream up new flavors every year, and I’m happy with how the pumpkin flavor comes through in this one. It’s tricky to add any wet ingredient to shortbread because it can alter its unique texture. In this case, just the right amount of pumpkin puree allows the flavor to come through without compromising that wonderful balance.
One of the charms of shortbread is that it is so easy to make, and requires so few ingredients. It was shortbread that got my oldest daughter Clare into baking when she was a teenager. As a family we make it every holiday season and usually give it as gifts. I try to surprise friends with unexpected varieties every year, but I have to say, Triple Vanilla Bean is a long time favorite of many. (If you twist my arm I’ll post the recipe soon :))
- 2 sticks, (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 heaping Tbsp pumpkin puree
- 1/4 tsp each: cinnamon, cardamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice
- 1/2 tsp ginger
- 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup dark chocolate chips
- Set oven to 350F
- Cream butter and sugar together.
- Beat in the vanilla, pumpkin, and spices.
- Fold in the flour, and then the chocolate chips.
- Spray an 8x8 square baking pan with cooking spray, and then line with parchment paper with overlapping ends. (The paper is optional, but makes for easier removal from the pan for cutting)
- Spread the batter in the pan, smoothing it out evenly.
- Bake for about 45 minutes until starting to get golden around the edges.
- Let cool on a rack, and slice into squares while still slightly warm.
Is it possible that there are still some of you out there who haven’t discovered the joy of pumpkin with chocolate? If so, here’s your chance to get with it.