Sunday, May 20, 2007

Classic Shortbread Cookies

There are few things more wonderful than these simple, easy, cookies. They are among my favorites, especially served fresh with Earl Grey Tea and a Lemon Marmalade made from Meyer Lemons. Since it just so happens that my neighbors next door have a huge Meyer Lemon Tree sitting there, visible from my kitchen window, I can't think of a reason not to have a few jars of it laid up at all times. At least no reason that anyone would ever buy. There's not a lot of voodoo or kitchen magic required for either of these recipes and the results will have your guests and friends for afternoon tea quivering in ecstacy.

First to the cookies which are the stated favorite of the The Dark Wraith who along with being the person responsible for the beautiful design of this site is also the publisher and guiding light behind the other site where I post my off the wall thoughts and rants the The Big Brass Blog.

This one's for you, your Wraithness.

INGREDIENTS FOR SHORTBREAD COOKIES

8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 cup confectioner's (powdered) sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Dump everything into a big bowl. Use your hands to mix it thoroughly. (kids especially love to do this) Press onto ungreased pans. This recipe will perfectly fill an 8" by 8" pan. Or, if you have moulds handy press into those and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 325° for about 20 minutes. The result should be lightly brown. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan on a rack, then while still slightly warm, cut into desired shapes.

That's it. That simple. So very good.

Now on to the Meyer Lemon Marmalade!

INGREDIENTS FOR MEYER LEMON MARMALADE

6 Meyer Lemons
4 cups water
4 cups baker's sugar
You will also need
cheesecloth
string
6 half pint Mason Jars and lids


Cut the lemons in half crosswise. Use a paring knife to dig out the seeds. Tie the seeds into a cheesecloth bag with the string leaving one long string. Quarter the lemon halves and slice them as thin as you can. I use a plastic cutting board for this that has a small catch gutter for the juice. As you are slicing place the results into a 5 quart non-reactive heavy pot. Cover with the water, drop in the bouquet garni (that's french for the little cheesecloth bag on a string thing you did with the seeds. Now let that all stand, covered for a minimum of twenty four hours. Don't cheat! If you must, go visit somebody, do something else in the kitchen. 24 hours. One whole day. You'll thank me later.

Bring this to a boil (I'm trusting you all waited the required time), over a medium heat without stirring. Then reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer uncovered, until the entire mixture is reduced to about 4 cups total (a little more than half by volume) which should take about 45 minutes. Stir in the sugar with a wooden spoon, bring the heat back up to a medium setting and boil the mixture, stirring occasionally and skimming off any foam that comes up until a teaspoon drops onto a cutting board gels, which will take around fifteen minutes.

Ladle the hot marmalade into the half pint Mason® jars to about a quarter inch from the top. Be sure to wipe down the mouths of the jars with a dampened rag before you put the lids on tightly. Put the jars into a water bath canner (or use a big ass stock pot and a small rack, just make sure to not have the jars resting on the bottom of the pot) and cover them with at least an inch of water over the tops of the jars. Bring this to a boil, and boil the whole thing, covered, for at least 5 minutes. Use tongs to remove the jars from the boiling water and cool them completely. Check the jars carefully when cooled to ensure a proper seal.

The marmalade will keep for up to a year in a cool dry place. Be sure to refrigerate it after opening.

As I said at the beginning, a shortbread cookie, spread with a dab of this marmalade, and a cup of Earl Grey tea, is about the best thing going in an afternoon. My British ex-pat friends Ian and Andrea make sure to drop by at least once a week or so, right around four. They use all manner of lame excuses like they are only looking for their kids or Andrea is coming by to pick up or drop off a dog (she's an ace groomer) but, it always seems to happen right around tea time. They're brits and they expect custom to be followed. One afternoon I thought I would really mess with them and serve Lapsang Souchong instead of the usual Earl Grey, they took it in stride.

3B's

12 Comments:

Blogger Sherry said...

sounds wonderful.

6:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I couldn't resist. Into the bouquet garni I would have to throw one sprig of lavender (or better yet, one blooming inflorescence plus its stem).

As long as you haven't used too much lavender, it enhances the lemon flavor by providing an extremely subtle floral backnote.

I've made homemade lemonade this way, where I had to squeeze the lemons well in advance, so I added a half dozen lavender heads to the two dozen or so squeezed, strained lemon juice and stuck it in the freezer for a week until I was ready to cook up the sugar water.

Do that sometime and see what you think (if you grow English lavender, that is).

- oddjob (who can almost never resist adding relevant herbs or spices)

7:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(strained juice from two dozen lemons)

- oddjob (who never proofreads)

7:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They took it in stride.

They're Brits! You were expecting otherwise???

- oddjob ;-)

7:09 PM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

absolutely correct on the lavender. It would be an incredible touch. I just happen to have some planted, and will be sure to throw a sprig into the next batch that happens. bet something like that wouldn't fuck up a shaker lemon pie either!

7:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

MMMMMMMMMMM.........................

- oddjob

8:04 PM  
Blogger Brave Sir Robin said...

I have a very prolific Meyers tree and I'm always looking for a way to use them.

Thanks!

1:59 PM  
Blogger konagod said...

Silas, he's a real good talker but I think he's a friend.

6:40 PM  
Blogger pissed off patricia said...

Forget the cooking part, just please pass the cookies my way.

8:15 AM  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Be still my heart--a military man who can make Meyer lemon marmalade, and enjoys shortbread of an afternoon, to boot. . .? Where are you, minstrel boy!

-Lisa

7:50 PM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

one of the things i promised myself as i slogged through the boonies eating crappy canned shit and stuff we found was that i would indulge myself with food when i made it back to the world. i also became pretty famous for being able to jazz up C & K rats with a stash of powdered milk and little baggies of spices that always found their way into my ruck. a little milk powder, some coriander and sage, a touch of powdered garlic and presto! bully beef became damned near stroganof. my lads wanted this nco alive.

i also have spent the last fourteen years as a single dad with sole custody of two girls and a boy. the kitchen became the heart of the house.

8:34 PM  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

But Minstrel boy--Lemon curd. . .

It is the macho/sensitivity combo which is so appealing. You describe the "big ass pot" to simmer it in, and how lavender wouldn't "fuck" other things up too badly, either.
A man after my own heart.

Good for you for mastering the civilities of life, as well. Oh that all men could be so balanced (women, too, for that matter.)

3:52 PM  

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