Orange & Dark Chocolate Shortbread
Does Christmas even exist without shortbread cookies?
Even though there isn’t any snow on the ground, even though I won’t be slurping down my Dad’s famous seafood chowder this Christmas Eve and even though I won’t be sipping brandy-spiked eggnog with my Mom, I can still make these delicious, tender shortbread cookies and instantly transport to Christmas-land.
I grew up on Scottish-style shortbread, made in one large tin, pricked with a fork, sprinkled with sugar and cut into wedges. While tasty, I was never enamored by the texture which was thick, heavy and (depending on the baker) sandy. When I started culinary school, we made shortbread cookies in my pastry class that we sandwiched between some lemon curd and dusted with powdered sugar. They melted in my mouth and changed my life forever.
So what did I take away from this class? A few tips:
- Like a pie dough, you don’t want to work the gluten in the flour too much, nor do you want an under-mixed, sandy-textured mess of a dough. Somewhere in between those two extremes is ideal.
- Some recipes call for just sugar, flour and butter while others call for sugar, flour, butter and cornstarch. A solution that works for well for both recipes? Use confectioner’s sugar instead of granulated. It contains cornstarch and will result in a light and tender cookie.
- Roll out the dough between two sheets of waxed paper. If you don’t have any, roll out the dough on a surface lightly sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar instead of flour. This ensures your cookies won’t dry out and crack.
This recipe uses orange rind for flavour. Then, when all are baked and cooled, each cookie is dipped halfway into a bowl of melted dark chocolate. You don’t want to skimp on the quality of the chocolate here – at least 70% cocoa is recommended! The result is a delicious, tender, melt-in-your-mouth Christmas cookie that isn’t too sweet and will be a great accompaniment to that glass of eggnog on Christmas Eve (don’t forget the brandy).
Orange & Dark Chocolate Shortbread Cookies
1 cup salted butter, softened
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
2 cups AP flour, sifted
Rind of one orange
Pinch of sea salt
2 bars (about 300 grams) good quality dark chocolate
- Preheat your oven to 325 degrees (160 degrees Celsius, no fan). Line a baking tray with parchment.
- With a hand mixer cream together the butter, sifted confectioner’s sugar, salt and orange rind. You want this mixture to be light, pale and fluffy.
- Sift the flour over the creamed ingredients. At this point I trade in the hand mixer for my hands. I mix the flour in gently while working the dough until it’s at a consistency where I can shape it into a ball.
- Chill the dough for 30 minutes.
- On a surface gently sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar (or using the waxed paper), roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thickness.
- Cut out cookies (use whatever kind of cutter you want – I went for a good ol’ circle because I gave away my cookie cutters before we moved to Ireland). You can prick the cookies with a fork to avoid air pockets or let them and the air pockets be – your preference.
- Bake for 15-18 minutes. You don’t want them to be golden brown or anything – the paler the better when it comes to shortbread.
- When the cookies are baked and cooled, melt the dark chocolate in a glass bowl placed over a pot of simmering water. You don’t want the chocolate to be super hot – when you dab some on your lip you want it to be slightly warmer than body temperature. Add in some unmelted chocolate to help it cool, if necessary.
- Set up some parchment or waxed paper on a flat surface. Dip the cookies in the tempered chocolate, removing any excess, and place on the parchment to cool and harden.
- Store the cookies in an airtight container for up to a week, or freeze them before dipping in chocolate for as long as you want.