The best classic shortbread

I found myself singing ” Silver Bells ” the last few days , it is the holiday season , after all . I was getting ready for all my holiday cookie baking , when I decided to bake up some “silver bells ” , using my true tried and all time favorite shortbread cookie dough . The dough cuts out and keeps its shape once bake very well . They are rich and buttery , so they keep really well for a couple of weeks , making them great for holiday giving and shipping . I think the secret to this simple 4 ingredient cookie is the cold , unsalted butter that provides the smooth rich texture of a cookie that just melts in your mouth ! O and as if that was not enough , classic shortbread is almost always eggless !

Fine Cooking

Yields about 4 dozen 1 1/2 by 2 inch bars

Photograph by Rahul Mahtani

Preheat oven to 300*F

1/2 lb ( 1 cup cold unsalted butter , cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1/2 cup granulated sugar ( I prefer superfine , just pulse in the food processor 4 or 5 times )

1/2 tsp table salt

10  oz ( 2  1/4 cups ) all purpose flour

1 tsp good vanilla extract ( I add this as I love vanilla , here a good extract makes all the difference , optional)

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment ( or in a large bowl with a hand mixer ) , combine the butter , sugar and salt on low speed until the butter combines with the sugar but isn’t perfectly smooth , 1 to 2 minutes . Add vanilla , if using , and combine .

Add the flour and mix on low speed , scraping the bowl frequently , until the dough has just about pulled together , about 3 minutes ;don’t overmix .

Roll , cut and bake for 30 to 60 minutes.


Fudgy Brownie bites

These brownies use both bittersweet and unsweetened chocolate , giving them a sexy sophisticted aura . Believe me , when it comes to chocolate this is no exaggaration . These brownies have a great construction , meaning they are fudgy and gooey , but do not taste underdone . I decided to bake them in individual muffin cups for a buffet dessert party , just remember to shorten the baking time .

Yields 16       Two inch squares

Fine cooking

Photograph by Rahul Mahtani

5 oz ( 10 tbs ) unsalted butter , softened at room temperature ; more for the pan

5 oz bittersweet chocolate

2 oz unsweetened chocolate

1 cup granulated sugar

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

pinch table salt

2 large eggs , at room temperature

1 large egg yolk , at room temperature

3 oz ( 2/3 cup ) unbleached all purpose flour

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and heat oven to 350*F . Butter an 8 inch square pan . Line the pan bottom with parchment and then butter the parchment .

In a medium bowl , melt the butter and both chocolated together in a medium metal bowl set over a pan of simmering water ( do not let the bowl touch the water ) and let cool slightly . Whisk in the sugar and then vanilla and salt. The mixture will be somewhat grainy. Whisk in the eggs and the egg yolk , one at a time , stirring each time until blended . Add the flour , beating until thickened and smooth , 30 to 60 seconds .

Pour into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with moist crumbs ( not wet batter ) clinging to it , 35 to 45 minutes . Set the pan on a rack until cool enough to handle . run a paring knife around the inside edge of the pan , then invert the pan onto a flat surface and peel off the parchment . flip the baked brownie back onto the rack to cool completely . Cut into squares with a sharp knife.

Moroccan Spice Rub

This is such a versatile rub , delicious , smoky and fragrant, so easy to prepare and so impressive. I use it on pork chops , other cuts of meat and even tofu or potatoes. I have even  rubbed small , new potatoes , boiled rubbed with the paste and grilled and a medly of other grilled vegetables and tossed them into couscous…oh what a vegan feast.

Makes 1/2 cup

Fine Cooking

Photograph by Rahul Mahtani

1 Tbs ground cumin

1 Tbs paprika

1 Tbs ground black pepper

1 Tbs ground coriander

1 tsp cayenne

1/2 tsp ground cloves

2 Tbs lemon juice

3 Tbs chopped garlic

1/4 cup olive oil

Mix all ingredients in a food processor and blend , scraping the sides occasionally ,until you have a paste. Use on your favorite meat , vegetables or tofu.

Spiced Mixed Nuts

Nuts are always a welcome addition with drinks, I especially love Cashews and almonds. Really any mix of nuts will do with the exception of Brazilnuts , as they have a high fat content making the coating slide off them. Go ahead ,impress your guests with these spicy nuts ,I am sure you’ll love having them on hand.

Yield 4 cups

1 lb  (4 cups ) mixed unsalted nuts , such as Cashews ,Macadamias , Walnuts ,pecans or almonds . (I LOVE TO ADD UNSALTED PISTACHIOS IN THEIR SHELLS )

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp ground cumin

2 tbs unsalted butter

2 tbs dark brown sugar

2 tbs chopped fresh rosemary

1/4 tsp cayenne

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 350*F. Scatter the nuts on a rimmed baking sheet and bake, shaking the sheet a couple of times during baking,until the nuts are nicely toasted, 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile ,set a small heavy skillet over medium high heat. Sprinkle in the coriander and cumin and toast till aromatic, about 30 seconds. Remove the pan from heat and add the butter, brown sugar ,Rosemary and cayenne. return skillet to heat and stir until the butter melts and sugar dissolves, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes. Keep warm.

Tip the nuts into a large WARM bowl  (this will help the spice butter coat the nuts evenly) , pour the spiced butter over the nuts , stir until nuts are well coated and taste to adjust seasoning.

Store in an airtight container for up to a week.


Chocolate Chunk Cookies with dried cherries and pecans(eggless)

These festive cookies are great for every holiday or everyday. This stands true for Christmas through to Valentine’s day. I love the different textures from the dried cherries and pecans coupled with the pure intensity of the chocolate from the cocoa powder ,if that is not enough the recipe calls for chocolate chunks . Chocolate purists can use any type of chocolate ,but my tastes go towards Semi sweet.

Fine Cooking

60 to 65 cookies

Photograph by Rahul Mahtani

   10 oz (2  1/4 cups) all purpose flour

3  1/2 oz (1 cup plus 2 tbs) unsweetened natural cocoa powder

1  2/3  cups granulated sugar

pinch salt

pinch baking powder

10  1/2 oz (1 cup plus 5 tbs ) room temperature unsalted butter

4  1/2 tbs whole milk

1  1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup toasted and coarsely chopped pecans

1  1/2 cups bittersweet or semi sweet chocolate chips or chunks

1  1/2 cups dried tart cherries , coarsely chopped

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 350*F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment.

In a food processor combine flour ,cocoa ,sugar, salt and baking soda. Pulse several times to mix throughly. Cut butter into about about 12 chunks and add them to the bowl. Pulse several times. Combine the milk and vanilla in a small cup. With the processor running add the milk mixture and continue to process until the dough clumps around the blade.

Remove to a mixing bowl and add in the pecans ,chocolate and dried cherries . Gently fold these into the dough.

Drop ,more or less level tablespoons onto the parchment  2 inches apart. (I USE THE BACK OF A DRINKING GLASS <DIPPED IN SUGAR TO GENTLY FLATTEN THE COOKIE)

Bake ,rotating the sheet half way through, until the surface looks dry and set ,about 12 minutes.

Slide cookies on to a wire rack and allow them to cool completely before storing in an air tight container.

I freeze my cookies in single layers seperated by wax paper.

Smoked Salmon and dill Marscapone Toasts

Marscapone has a slightly sweet taste making it an ideal paring with the smokiness of the Salmon. I love the freshness of the dill and the anise flavor of the fennel. Be sure to slice the fennel super thin ,so it is not competing with the salmon . I loved to serve these along with High tea or even an elegant get together, they look beautiful placed on a silver serving tray. I have even prepared these as miniture sandwiches, they taste great and look elegant.

Source Fine Cookin

Yields 16


8 oz marscapone cheese

2 tbs chopped fresh dill plus 16 small fronds for garnish

Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 medium fennel bulb ,thinly sliced

16 toast points

4 oz sliced cold -smoked salmon, cut into 16 even pieces

Mix the marscapone ,dill , 1 tsp lemon zest , and 2 tsp lemon juice in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and check for seasonings . Season the sliced fennel with salt. At this point you may refridgerate till ready to assemble.

To assemble ,spread toasts with some of the marscapone and then cut each toast into 4 even squares. Top each square with a couple pieces of fennel , a curl of salmon ,a dill frond, and a few grinds of black pepper

Gingerbread Biscotti

Biscotti are great cookies to have on hand during the holidays, they are easy to make and store beautifully, I actually love giving them as gifts. Bake them to your desired level of crunchy ,chewey or somewhere in between.

Fine cooking

Yields 24

10 oz  (2 1/4 cups) all purpose flour

1 1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar

2 tsp ground ginger

1  1/4 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp baking soda

4 oz (1 cup) pecans, coarsley chopped

4 oz (1 cup lightly packed ) dried apricots ,coarsely chopped

1/4 cup molasses

2 large eggs

2 tsp finely grated orange zest

 Position rack in the middle of the oven ,heat to 350*F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle atteachment ,combine the flour , brown sugar ,ginger , baking soda ,cinnamon  , salt , nutmeg on medium speed until well blended. On low speed , briefly mix in the pecans and apricots . In a measuring cup lightly whisk the molasses ,eggs and orange zest. With mixer on low , slowly pour in the egg mixture. Continue mixing until the dough is well blended and comes together in large ,moist clumps.

Dump the dough onto an unfloured work surface. Divide into 2 equal piles. Shape each pile into a log that’s 10 inches long and 1 1/2 inches in diameter, lightly flouring your hands as needed.

Position the logs on the lined cookie sheet about 4 inches apart. Bake until the tops are cracked and spring back slightly when gently pressed , 30 -35 minutes. Allow to cool 10 minutes.

Carefully transfer a log on to a cutting board. Using a serrated knife ,with a sawing motion slice diagnally 3/4 inch wide. Return Biscotti to the same cookie sheet and arrange them cut side down.

Bake until biscotti are dried to your taste level .10 minutes for moist and chewey to 20 minutes for super dry and crunchy. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Store in an air tight container.