Basically: Shortbread

I have started to enjoy waking up early on Sunday mornings to find the new basically recipe in my inbox. The email has the ingredient list and an equipment list. I scroll through to see what I need and what I already have. Then I link to the directions and read through the entire page to see what I need to be aware of and how much time I need. The recipe for the week was Roasty Toast Pecan-Caramel Shortbread Cookies and you can find it here. Mmmmm caramel. As I scanned through the list I noted I didn’t have dulce de leche but I did have a tin of sweetened condensed milk. I had never seen dulce de leche in the grocery story here, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t there. A quick google search showed a recipe for Compliments (Sobeys) brand squares with Compliments dulche de leche. I could buy some if I needed it. But making my own is easy enough.

ET Note: This entire recipe was a fail at various steps along the way. But the end result was tasty.

To begin the procedure for dulce de leche, I filled my dutch oven with water and set it to simmer. I then transfered my sweetened condensed milk into a mason jar. I do this for two reasons.

  1. cooking in tins can created explosions and is not the best choice for health reasons.
  2. I can see when the caramel it the right colour and done to my liking.

I kept a watchful eye on the pot over a three hour period. I added water every hour to keep the milk submerged.

Would it have been easier to purchase dulce de leche? Absolutely. Should I have? Meh… I didn’t want to go to two different shops and Molly from Basically said “even better if you make your own”. I needed to go to Bulk Barn to buy pecans and nonpareils (Who among you knew what nonpareils are? I only know them as their common name, sprinkles so that took some research). While this was simmering away, I left the hubs in charge of it and left for the Bulk Barn. I learned from the Bulk Barn gurus, I can bring my clean containers, have them weigh it and mark my jars, then I can fill them with all my bulky items! This makes me happy because of my quest to reduce single use plastics! I filled a jar a quarter way with pecans and another jar with turbinado sugar, white nonpareils were empty and I am not enamoured with food dye, so I chose the sugar which is an option in the recipe, so far not cheating.

I came home to this.

And submerged the jar into cold water to cool it down. While that was happening I toasted the pecans for the 3 minutes as directed and promptly burnt the pecans. I had bought the perfect amount so I needed to go back to the store. Was I happy about this? Not a chance. Plus we were doing taxes and that also made me angry.

I toasted the new bunch and chopped them finely because I do not have a food processor. This was apparently not a problem for the recipe other than I needed to assemble everything is a different order. I will get to that in a minute.

This was about 10 minutes of chopping.

I went to the BA forum and looked up the order of the recipe when not using a food processor. I needed to cream the butter, sugar and the dulce de leche.

Then add the flour, salt and add the nuts.

Getting this into a log and into the fridge was fussy.

Wrapping up in the parchment and leaving it in the fridge for 90 minutes was oddly specific.

When it was time to pull it out, I basted more dulce de leche on it and rolled it in the sugar.

Somehow I didn’t read the part where I needed to chill it again. So I sliced it up and baked it.

These looked NOTHING like the Basically version so I went to the forum to see what I did wrong.

  1. Chilling a second time reduces spreading.
  2. Using parchment instead of silpat also reduces spreading.
  3. Silpat helped to melt the dulce de leche and everything ran off the sides of the cookies.
  4. The recipe didn’t say what to bake it at. I make a guess at 325F because the pecans were toasted at that and that is also the temp I bake my shortbread at. Turns out I was right. I was slightly annoyed they made an error this huge in the instructions – this is a test kitchen after all. But I work in communications so I completely understand how this happened. Always send copy to fresh eyes people, always.

All in all, the cookie tasted good. Would I make this again? Not on your life, however, I would add dulce de leche to a different recipe because it is so darn tastey.

Here is their version vs mine. the result? FAIL.

Next week is fudgy brownies. I am in.

Brothers

M4

Not everyone has a brother, but everyone knows someone with a brother. I have one brother, grew up with a couple of foster brothers and I have friends who I feel as if they were brothers. A brother relationship is much different from my sister relationship. I don’t think it has anything to do with gender, it has everything to do with personality and preferences.

My brother has been my nemesis, my partner, my adversary and standard that I judge by (I know judging isn’t preferable, but we all do it.). But mostly my brother has been my friend, the kind of friend I don’t talk to every day, but when I need to I can call. He always calls me right back. He is turning 50 in 19 days.

50

Why is it that I am okay with me being 52 but it bothers me that my baby brother is 50? I think of him as the little kid that was into everything. My grandmother called him busy and that was an understatement.  My brother was busy x 10. But I sure did learn a lot from him. He would dehydrate frogs in his jean pockets and then stick them in water. It would take a bit, but those frogs always perked up and he would take them back to the pond. At the age of 9, he quietly sent part of his allowance every month to the Humane Society. We discovered this by the monthly subscription newsletter and thank you cards. He had our little sister on the back of his bike and he couldn’t figure out why it was so hard to pedal. Her leg was caught in the spokes and it broke – the leg, she was 3(?) maybe older? He abandoned his beloved bike and carried her home. He was always rescuing birds, dogs, cats and people. His room was a pet sanctuary filled with rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, fish and dogs. It smelled like a farm.

M2

He is a lot of things. He has no time for fiction, except Star Trek – but I think he thinks it’s a documentary.  It has to be true or it’s wasting his time. This includes liars and fake people. He is fiercely protective of family and friends. He never complains about anything that happens to him or the cards life has dealt him. He doesn’t let what other people say or do bother him. Life is too short to get involved with drama and it has to be his biggest pet peeve. He wants everyone to just get along.

M3

I am fiercely loyal back. I will always choose him.

This guy hates homemade food. Make him homemade cookies, and he rather have store-bought. Make him bbq burgers and he rather have fast food. This guy loves going out to eat so it surprised me when he said I make the best shortbread he has ever had. I am flattered. For his birthday I will make him 50 shortbread cookies. My recipe is here. He will likely hide them under the sofa cushions with a dirty sock on the bag to protect it. He will snack on these during Star Trek Discovery in case anyone wants one.

Happy 50th Birthday Brother, I could have asked for a better one… but you’ll do.

Shortbread

My former life and marriage had a lot of dark moments, but… I learned a lot of very useful and important things. I can operate a backhoe and chainsaw. I can peel logs, do a full scribe notch and build walls for a log home. I know how to leave space for windows so the settling won’t break the glass. I missed the part about raising the ridge pole and putting the roof on, but I bet I could find someone to do that for me. I learned to grow all my fruit and vegetables and preserve them for winter.  I can pickle, make jam and jellies and can fruit and veg until you think you will never run out of food. I can make quilts, sew clothes, knit and crochet sweaters, blankets and slippers. I know how to change oil, dig a trench (to run power and services from the road to the back of the lot) plus I can water ski, paddle a canoe down rapids and weld. All random things that I now have in my arsenal of skills. If there comes a time that the world might seem to be ending and everything is destroyed, I got you. I know what plants with keep scurvy away and you won’t starve. I can build you a home but not a roof – I am sure I can figure that out.  Come find me, we can start our own village. 

My favourite thing I learned during that time is the recipe for shortbread from the exhusband’s mom. I still make it every year and it is the one thing my brother loves, so I make sure he gets a generous batch. 

I was flipping through Amazon and looking at embossed rolling pins. They are so beautiful I decided to buy one for my shortbread this year.

It hasn’t arrived yet. It might take another 3 weeks. It looks like this:

I was taught to drop the dough onto the baking sheet and sprinkle with coloured sugar or red and green cherries. I did that once and decided …ew. No thanks. Plain is fine. So I use a cookie stamp. I roll the cookie out, stamp it and then use a cutter to get the perfect shape. I have a pottery stamp that I slipped into my suitcase when I left home. My mom wasn’t a huge baker, she is a French style cook and I baked. So I figured she may not notice it was gone until now, Hi Mom!

The stamp itself isn’t particularly beautiful but it is fun to stamp out designs. and I don’t know why I never bought a prettier pattern. But here were are. Now I wait for my new rolling pin.  It is not a Scottish Style shortbread, that is heavier and denser, also great but different.  This is the classic whipped shortbread recipe found on the cornstarch box, or rather you used to find it there, I haven’t seen it for years but I still have a copy taped to the inside of my cookie book. My cookie series has been so popular with you asking for more secrets. Since this recipe is not a family secret, this is for you. 

Idiotstick’s Mom’s Shortbread Recipe 

  • 3/4 cup softened salted butter – this is important – or add a pinch of salt if you use unsalted
  • 1 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch 

Preheat oven to 300 F. 

Sift together cornstarch, sugar and flour. beat together with butter in the mixer or by hand – mixer makes it lighter. I mix it for a long while. You think it will never come together and them, boom, it forms a ball and pulls away from the bowl. Then it is done. 

I roll out on a clean surface, do not flour. 

I stamp and cut the shapes and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. It helps to have an offset spatula to loosen the cookies from the counter. Alternatively, you can form balls and press with a stamp or fork. I bake for 20 minutes. take out just before the start to go golden on the edges. You want white cookies, not brown cookies. These are shortbread but if you over bake them, its not the end of the world. Paul Hollywood or Mary Berry are not in your kitchen. 

Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container. I like to freeze them and eat them cold, but I realize I am the only person on the planet who prefers this. 

See? Not the prettiest stamp but they taste amazing. 

The baking is done and so am I

gooey-cookies

A long time ago, perhaps only last year, I could take on more than humanly possible. I think it was genetic or stupid…without a substantial research grant, I will not be able to quantify the data. Let’s call it genetic, shall we?

When I was little, around 10ish, I was finally old enough to be a real help in the kitchen. One of my mom’s hobbies was cooking. When I say cook, I am not talking your run of the mill meat loaf or casserole. My mom was a Julia Childs fan in a BIG WAY. She watched Julia on cooking shows and Graham Kerr the Galloping Gourmet when ever she was home and could catch it on. These were the days before VCRs and my mom worked full time.

I would come home from school, call my mom and she would give me instructions on how to start dinner. She was very good at giving step by step instructions so I could visualize them in my head. Eventually, all of us kids learned to cook via the phone method and we would take turns preparing meals, all of us but dad. He was the official taste tester. It was his job to tell us “it was the best thing he every tasted” whether it was or not. I honestly believe that is why we all are better cooks than we use to be. He gave us the confidence to try new things. Even if it tasted like dog food, my dad would eat it and say it was the best ever!

Every year around the Grey Cup (Canada’s Superbowl…not really but it whatever) Mom would have finalized her Christmas Baking list and purchased all the supplies she needed. We would then get to work. By dinner time, the house would be filled with hundreds of cookies, squares, tarts and candy. The idea was, if you are making a mess in the kitchen, go big or go home. It was fun. Sometimes my grandma and aunt would come over and it would be a girls day baking. Those were fun times! I had kept up that tradition until this year.

Today I had the intention of baking several different batches of cookies and several buckets full of various flavoured candy popcorn. The result?

I made it as far as two batches of cookies and think “Who the hell is going to clean up this mess?” I am knackered.

Lemon Crinkles and Chocolate chip cookies made the cut. Ginger Sparklers and Short Bread may or may not get done this year. I am pretty sure tarts are out of the question. I did manage to whiz up the candy canes in the food processor for peppermint dust on the chocolate covered popcorn. But that is the extent of my ambition. Oh, and I made tea.

Now I need a nap.