Blackberry Shortbread Wedges

Blackberry Shortbread WedgesIt’s never fun to come home from vacation, but I think I did it right this time. Returning over the holiday weekend left me ample time to relax, grocery shop, meal prep, put up all the new things I bought in Swan’s Island and Portland, and watch all of The Good Place season 2. I’m calling it a success.Blackberry Shortbread Wedges

Getting back into the groove yesterday wasn’t too terrible, but a piece of my heart is definitely still in Maine. You know, where it’s not 95 degrees.Blackberry Shortbread Wedges

Two days before I packed up to go home, my sister and I walked a good stretch of the North Road at a snail’s pace, picking upwards of a quart of tiny wild blackberries in about two hours. It might sound dull, but I can assure you that Eliot and I were anything but bored.Blackberry Shortbread WedgesBlackberry Shortbread Wedges

The vast majority of the berries we found were the blackberries we expected, but we also spotted a blueberry patch and two teeny raspberries. All the apple trees were starting to turn, too. Maybe one day I’ll vacation a little later so I can enjoy them.Blackberry Shortbread WedgesBlackberry Shortbread Wedges

I’ve written before about how I consider baking (and cooking) to be a form of active meditation; I feel the same way about foraging for berries. It’s easy to get lost in the simple process of plucking them from bushes and interacting with nature in a very tactile way. Berry-picking is probably the only time in my life where I am able to peacefully, fearlessly coexist with bees and that I’m not mad about a few good scratches from thorns. If anything, they’re little badges of honor.Blackberry Shortbread WedgesBlackberry Shortbread WedgesBlackberry Shortbread Wedges

I’ve made pies with my foraged berries the last three years I’ve been on Swan’s Island, but decided to keep it easy this year, opting instead for these Blackberry Shortbread Wedges.Blackberry Shortbread Wedges

They’re a slight adaptation of my Sweet Cherry Shortbread Bars (and their apple counterpart), this time baked in an 8-inch round pan. The resulting wedges (or bars or whatever you want to call them) are served up almost like pie, and have a thick, buttery shortbread crust that is difficult to stop eating. You could certainly serve these at room temperature, but my fellow vacationers and I preferred them straight from the fridge. There’s just something about the combination of cold, tangy blackberry filling and rich shortbread.Blackberry Shortbread Wedges

You’ll notice in the photos that I didn’t line the pan with foil or parchment—that’s only because I didn’t have any at our house. Instead, I greased and floured the pan and then sliced and served them directly from the pan. You may follow my lead here, or line the pan with foil and lift them onto a cutting board before slicing. I’ve written instructions for both methods in the recipe.Blackberry Shortbread WedgesBlackberry Shortbread Wedges

However you choose to go about making these, I urge you to do so in these last weeks of summer. We saw pumpkins for sale as we drove out of Maine on September 1st, and while I am all for pumpkin after September 20th, I’m going to enjoy these end-of-season berries while I can.Blackberry Shortbread WedgesBlackberry Shortbread Wedges

Blackberry Shortbread Wedges
makes one 8-inch pan, 8-12 wedges

Filling:
3 cups fresh blackberries
juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Shortbread:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes

Place oven racks in top and bottom positions. Preheat oven to 375F. Butter and flour an 8-inch round cake pan, or line with aluminum foil, leaving overhang, and grease with butter. Set aside.

Make blackberry filling. In a medium mixing bowl, combine blackberries, lime juice, sugar, cinnamon, salt, and cornstarch. Set aside while you make the shortbread.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt. Add cold butter. Use your fingertips to rub butter into flour until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. It will be powdery, but should hold together when pinched. Set aside 1 cup of the mixture for topping.

Pour remaining shortbread mixture into prepared pan. Spread it around to cover the bottom of the pan before using your hand to pack it down into an even layer. Prick several times with a fork. Pour blackberry filling over the top, leaving behind any excess liquid. Spread berries into an even layer.

For the topping, use your fingers to pinch together small portions of the reserved shortbread mixture. Scatter them over the top of the blackberry layer.

If your pan is on the shallow side, place it on a rimmed baking sheet to collect any light overflow. Bake on the bottom rack of the oven for 20 minutes. Move bars to the top rack and bake for an additional 10-12 minutes, until barely golden. Tent with foil if anything begins to brown too quickly. Let cool in the pan on a rack until they reach room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 90 minutes, or until cold.

If pan was buttered and floured, slice and serve wedges directly from the pan. If it was lined with foil, use overhang to remove to a cutting board. Peel off foil before slicing and serving.

Leftover Blackberry Shortbread Wedges will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days. They will soften over time.

Blackberry Shortbread Wedges

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Neapolitan Shortbread

Neapolitan ShortbreadI have never had many feelings about Neapolitan ice cream—that classic all-in-one combination of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry—except that I’d probably prefer a scoop of vanilla with sprinkles instead.Neapolitan ShortbreadNeapolitan Shortbread, though, are a different story. I saw a few recipes for them while scrolling through Pinterest a few weeks ago and thought they were super cute with their different colored stripes. I just had to make them, if only to make the world’s most adorable ice cream sandwiches. Neapolitan ShortbreadI clicked on a link and saw, to my utter (and definitely over-the-top) horror, that the layers were all made with one dough, the chocolate portion being mixed with melted chocolate and the pink part being just vanilla with food coloring! I clicked through more links and found a lot more of the same. Some had mixed their pink portion with strawberry jam, but that was even more problematic—it meant that all three portions would have different textures and bake differently. Neapolitan ShortbreadAnd so, I set out to fix this problem. Yes, I know that this “problem” is one I created with my own pickiness, but I don’t care because I believe in cookies that bake evenly and deliver flavors as advertised, damn it! I will not apologize for being a cookie snob. #justiceforstrawberry

Okay, rant over. (Sorry.) Neapolitan ShortbreadI set to work, and it took me five test-batches, but y’all, these Neapolitan Shortbread are fantastic. They’ve got bold colors and big flavors and they bake evenly and they are shockingly easy to make.Neapolitan ShortbreadNeapolitan ShortbreadEach layer is made from its own quick, simple dough, all three of which can be made in the same bowl in under twenty minutes. Here’s the rundown:

  • the chocolate dough is made with cocoa powder and a hint of espresso.
  • the vanilla dough is made with vanilla (duh) and a touch of almond extract.
  • the strawberry is made with pulverized freeze-dried strawberries (a la these) and a few drops of food coloring to keep the pink portion vibrant while baking.

Neapolitan ShortbreadNeapolitan ShortbreadNeapolitan ShortbreadNeapolitan ShortbreadAll the doughs are all pressed together in a wax paper-lined loaf pan and chilled until hard. Then the edges are trimmed off, the dough is cut into two long pieces, and each one is sliced into cookies. I ❤ ❤ ❤ a slice & bake recipe! Neapolitan ShortbreadNeapolitan Shortbread bake at a low temperature for 17-18 minutes. The cookies will be a little soft coming out of the oven, but should set up quickly. They’ll be crisp at the edges, slightly chewy in the centers, and oh, so buttery. Neapolitan ShortbreadThese cookies are as delicious as they are beautiful, with plenty of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry flavors in every bite! And that’s to say nothing of the bright, bold colors—I just love that berry pink!Neapolitan ShortbreadNeapolitan ShortbreadNeapolitan ShortbreadOh, and I was right. They do make adorable ice cream sandwiches 🙂 Neapolitan Shortbread

Neapolitan Shortbread
makes about 6.5 dozen cookies

Chocolate Dough:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup cocoa powder (natural or dutch process)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon espresso granules (optional)
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

Vanilla Dough:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract (optional)
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

Strawberry Dough:
1 cup freeze dried strawberries
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3-5 drops liquid red food coloring (or 1 drop red gel food coloring), optional
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

Line a 9×5-inch loaf pan with wax paper, leaving a couple of inches of overhang on the sides. Set aside.

Make the chocolate dough. In a medium mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Mix in vanilla. Add cocoa powder, flour, espresso granules and salt, and mix until a dough forms. Dough will look crumbly, but should pinch together very easily. Press chocolate dough into a mostly-even layer in the bottom of the prepared pan. Refrigerate while you make the vanilla dough. Wipe down beaters and bowl.

In a medium mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Mix in vanilla and optional almond extract, followed by flour and salt. Press vanilla dough into a mostly-even layer over the top of the chocolate dough. Refrigerate while you make the strawberry dough. Wipe down beaters and bowl.

Combine freeze dried strawberries and sugar in a food processor* and blitz until they are a powder. Transfer to mixing bowl. Add butter and use an electric mixer to beat it together until fluffy. Mix in vanilla and red food coloring, followed by flour and salt. Dough may be crumbly, but should hold together very well when pinched. Press strawberry dough into a mostly-even layer on top of the vanilla dough. Fold wax paper overhang over the top of the dough. Refrigerate for 3 hours or up to 3 days.

Place oven racks in top and bottom positions. Preheat oven to 300F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

Remove dough from refrigerator. Unfold wax paper overhang and use it to lift dough brick onto a cutting board. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to trim the edges (which can be cut into rectangles and baked into cookies). Slice rectangle down the middle lengthwise so that you have two long, skinny rectangles of dough. Refrigerate one rectangle.

Slice rectangle into 1/4-inch slices, placing them at least 1 1/2-inches apart on prepared pans. If dough gets too warm, refrigerate full pans for 5 minutes before baking.

Bake cookies for 9 minutes. Rotate pans top-to-bottom and front-to-back. Bake an additional 8-9 minutes, until no longer wet looking. Shortbread should not turn golden. Let cool on the pans for 7 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. Repeat slicing and baking processes with remaining dough, letting pans return to room temperature between batches.

Neapolitan Shortbread will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for at least a week. They will soften slightly over time.Neapolitan ShortbreadNeapolitan ShortbreadNeapolitan Shortbread

Almond Joy Shortbread Bars

Almond Joy Shortbread BarsI don’t want to write about baking today—I want to write about how much I love the Olympics. I’ve watched the coverage every night and had it on in the background while I’ve baked during the day. This isn’t a recent habit—I grew up in a family that gathered to watch the games (summer or winter) every night they were on, and I even once had a wall of my teenage bedroom dedicated to the decorated short track speedskater Apolo Ohno.

Yeah…when it comes to the Olympics, I’m a real big nerd. I’m also a baseball nerd and an Oscars nerd, so…well, maybe I just watch too much TV. That’s probably it.

Almond Joy Shortbread BarsAnyway, this isn’t an Olympics blog. It’s a baking blog. So, let’s talk about baked goods, specifically Almond Joy Shortbread Bars.

Almond Joy Shortbread BarsIf you’re going to try to improve on the practically perfect combination of chocolate, almonds, and sweet coconut filling, layering it all onto a buttery chocolate shortbread crust is a pretty good way to start.

Almond Joy Shortbread BarsAll the layers in these bars make them look like they take hours to prepare, but in reality, they take about 90 minutes from start to finish and are nearly no-bake. That easy chocolate shortbread crust is the only layer that has to spend time in the oven.

Almond Joy Shortbread BarsIt’s topped with a thick layer of coconut filling and dotted with whole roasted almonds…Almond Joy Shortbread BarsAlmond Joy Shortbread Bars

…and a layer of milk chocolate. You can use dark chocolate if you like, but apparently Almond Joys are made with milk chocolate. I’ve been wrong for two years. Oh well.

Almond Joy Shortbread BarsAlmond Joy Shortbread BarsBut back to the bars. Slice ‘em up and admire your handiwork. #thoselayerstho

The flavor is everything you love about sweet, chewy, crunchy Almond Joys, but better because they’re homemade. Oh, and because they have a crispy layer of chocolate shortbread offsetting all their sweetness. After sinking your teeth into one of these, you’ll never be able to go back to the mass-produced candy bar.

Y’all, these are seriously good. I know I say that about everything on this blog, but I really mean it today. These are a gold medal recipe for sure.Almond Joy Shortbread Bars

Almond Joy Shortbread Bars
makes one 9-inch square pan, about 16 bars

Chocolate Shortbread Crust:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder (natural or Dutch process)
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes

Coconut Filling:
1/2 cup whole raw almonds
5 fluid ounces (10 tablespoons) sweetened condensed milk
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3 cups sweetened flaked coconut

Chocolate Topping:
6 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9-inch square pan with foil and grease well with butter. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, light brown sugar, and salt. Use your fingertips to rub butter into dry ingredients until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. It will be powdery, but should hold together when pinched. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Spread it around to cover the bottom of the pan before using your hand to pack it down into an even layer. Prick several times with a fork. Bake 14-15 minutes, until no longer wet-looking. Let shortbread crust cool completely in the pan on a rack.

Make the filling. Place almonds on a dry baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 5-7 minutes, or until fragrant. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together sweetened condensed milk, confectioners sugar, vanilla extract, and salt. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in coconut. Mixture will be very thick. Drop filling in spoonfuls over the cooled crust and spread across the entire surface. Arrange almonds in lines (or as desired) over the top of the coconut and press down to adhere. Freeze full pan for 15 minutes.

Make the chocolate topping. Combine chopped milk chocolate and butter in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 15 second increments, stirring in between, just until melted. Drop chocolate over filling one spoonful at a time. Use a small offset icing knife (or a silicone spatula) to carefully spread it over a section of the filling. Continue dropping and spreading chocolate until it’s all used and the almonds are covered. Freeze until chocolate has hardened, about 15 minutes.

Use foil overhang to remove bars to a cutting board. Carefully peel foil down the sides. Use a lightly-greased sharp chef’s knife to slice bars. Lift bars from foil with a thin spatula. Serve.

Bars may be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days. Layer them with wax paper if they are to be stacked.

Almond Joy Shortbread Bars

Chocolate-Dipped Brown Butter Shortbread

Chocolate-Dipped Brown Butter ShortbreadAs with everything else in life, patience is a huge part of being a food blogger. For instance, I first made a version of these cookies for an order last April and knew immediately that I wanted to put them on the blog…but who eats shortbread in April?

Chocolate-Dipped Brown Butter ShortbreadI’m sure someone does, but most everybody I know reserves it for Christmas, so I waited. And then December came and went, and nary a shortbread made an appearance on this blog. I suppose I could have held out for the end of the year, but instead I’m making shortbread for Valentine’s Day and you should too.

Chocolate-Dipped Brown Butter ShortbreadChocolate-Dipped Brown Butter ShortbreadI mean, all shortbread is good—it’s basically a vehicle for eating copious amounts of butter and sugar in polite company. But this isn’t just any shortbread.

Chocolate-Dipped Brown Butter ShortbreadChocolate-Dipped Brown Butter ShortbreadChocolate-Dipped Brown Butter ShortbreadChocolate-Dipped Brown Butter ShortbreadThis version is made with brown butter. It’s one of my very favorite ingredients (see here, here, and here), producing baked goods with a nutty aroma and incomparable depth of flavor.

Chocolate-Dipped Brown Butter ShortbreadChocolate-Dipped Brown Butter ShortbreadChocolate-Dipped Brown Butter ShortbreadChocolate-Dipped Brown Butter ShortbreadChocolate-Dipped Brown Butter ShortbreadBrown butter is good in basically everything, but it really shines in these simple six-ingredient cookies. See those dark specks? Those are browned milk solids—tiny bits of flavor alllllll over the place, y’all!

Chocolate-Dipped Brown Butter ShortbreadChocolate-Dipped Brown Butter ShortbreadAnd then, as if things could possibly get better, the baked shortbread are dipped in melted dark chocolate.

Chocolate-Dipped Brown Butter ShortbreadTender, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth brown butter shortbread dipped. in. chocolate.

Chocolate-Dipped Brown Butter ShortbreadOh my word.

Chocolate-Dipped Brown Butter ShortbreadYou could certainly leave the chocolate half plain, but I am not the sort of baker who leaves things plain. I used my fanciest chocolate sprinkles here (they’re called hagelslag—try ‘em on buttered toast). Coarse salt works too, if you didn’t run out over Christmas and then totally forget to replenish your stash for two months. I wouldn’t know anything about that though. Nope.Chocolate-Dipped Brown Butter Shortbread

Chocolate-Dipped Brown Butter ShortbreadThere’s something luxurious about the name of this recipe, and they certainly look fancy, but I assure you that these Chocolate-Dipped Brown Butter Shortbread are as easy as they are delicious. I made them five times this week (and in multiple shapes!), so I know.

Another thing I know? If someone presented me with a batch of these, I’d definitely feel loved.Chocolate-Dipped Brown Butter Shortbread

Chocolate-Dipped Brown Butter Shortbread
makes about 36 2-inch cookies

1 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
6 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed
4 tablespoons confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

Chocolate Dip:
8 ounces pure dark chocolate, chopped
chocolate sprinkles (hagelslag) or coarse salt, for garnish (optional)

Brown the butter. Place butter in a light-colored saucepan over medium heat. Let butter melt. Butter will bubble and crackle as the water content evaporates. Swirl the pan frequently for 5-7 minutes, keeping an eye on the color. When the solids are turning brown and the butter is nutty and fragrant, remove the pot from the heat and immediately pour the brown butter into a small bowl. Let it cool a bit before refrigerating until solid (a few hours or overnight). When you are ready to bake, soften the solid brown butter to room temperature

Place softened brown butter in a medium-large mixing bowl and use an electric mixer to beat it until light and fluffy, about 1-2 minutes. Add dark brown and confectioners sugars and mix until fluffy. Mix in vanilla and salt. With the mixer on low, beat in flour. Dough will be crumbly looking, but should hold together very well when pinched. Divide dough in two parts.

Working with one half at a time, sandwich dough between two pieces of parchment paper and roll until 1/4-inch thick. Transfer to the freezer (on a baking sheet, if desired) for 15 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough. It is okay to stack the sheets of dough in the freezer.

While the dough is freezing, place racks in the center positions. Preheat the oven to 300F. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

Remove one sheet of dough from the freezer. Peel on of the pieces of parchment off. Use a lightly floured 2-inch cookie cutter to cut cookies. Place them close together on prepared pans. Repeat with remaining dough. Scraps can be re-rolled, frozen, and cut.

Bake cookies for 21-23 minutes, or until no longer shiny. Let cool on the pans for 7 minutes. Use a thin spatula (not your fingers!) to remove cookies to cooling racks to cool completely.

Line two baking sheets with parchment.

Melt chocolate in a double boiler or the microwave (30 second increments, stirring in between). Dip each cookie halfway and place on prepared pans. Scatter sprinkles or coarse salt over the top. Repeat with remaining cookies. Chocolate will set after a couple of hours at room temperature, or a few minutes in the freezer.

Shortbread will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for several days.

Chocolate-Dipped Brown Butter Shortbread

Spicy Cheddar Shortbread

Spicy Cheddar ShortbreadI figure you’ve all got your Thanksgiving menus nailed down by now, but can I just suggest one more thing? Just one?

Spicy Cheddar ShortbreadOkay, good.

You don’t want to miss these Spicy Cheddar Shortbread. They’re the slice-and-bake cheese plate addition that you didn’t know you needed. But make no mistake, you do.

Spicy Cheddar ShortbreadYou may not need them on Thursday (because you probably have it all together and have already started making your cornbread and rough puff–you’re totally killing this Thanksgiving business 🙌🏻), but sometime between now and January 2nd, you’re going to be very happy you have this recipe in your back pocket.

Spicy Cheddar ShortbreadI mean, these savory shortbread are basically cheese crackers for adults. They’re crispy and light-textured with a full-bodied cheddar flavor because, unlike the cheese crackers you can buy at the grocery store, these guys are made with real cheese. Oh, and on top of all that, the dough comes together in five minutes in the food processor.

You’re welcome.

Spicy Cheddar ShortbreadThis dough really couldn’t be simpler. Start by grating half a pound of extra sharp cheddar cheese.

Spicy Cheddar ShortbreadPut some flour, black pepper, cayenne, and salt in a food processor.

Spicy Cheddar ShortbreadThrow the cheese in there and pulse everything into a rubble.

Spicy Cheddar ShortbreadSpicy Cheddar ShortbreadAdd some cold butter and a teaspoon of mustard…

Spicy Cheddar Shortbreadand process it until it’s dough.

Spicy Cheddar ShortbreadForm it into logs, wrap it in plastic, and give it a chill. Then slice…

Spicy Cheddar Shortbreadand bake.

Spicy Cheddar ShortbreadMaybe serve them next to a big pile of apple slices, just to be extra seasonal. Or maybe put them on a cheese plate. I’m gonna do that for aaaallllllll the holiday parties.

Spicy Cheddar ShortbreadBut I’m also going to pile them in a jar and eat them by their lonesome because they’re so good, they don’t need any accoutrements. I suggest you do the same.

Spicy Cheddar ShortbreadHappy Thanksgiving, dear readers 💗

Spicy Cheddar ShortbreadSpicy Cheddar Shortbread
makes about 4 dozen shortbread

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
8 ounces grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon prepared dijon mustard

Combine flour, cayenne, black pepper, and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add butter, cheddar, and mustard, and process until a dough ball forms. Divide dough in half and form into two 8-inch logs. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour (or up to 3 days).

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Set aside.

Cut dough into 1/4-inch slices and place at least an inch apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake for 10 minutes, or until light golden at the edges. Let cool on the pans for five minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely.

Shortbread are best the day they are made. Leftovers will keep in an airtight container for up to two days.