Hindsight is an amazing thing — your past mistakes and fits of stupidity are so easy to see in retrospect. I received an amazing gift while in college from my best friend’s sister, Tita. Tita works in the publishing industry and knowing how much I enjoyed cooking she sent me The Professional Pastry Chef (3rd Edition). The book clocks in at over 1,000 pages and is widely known as the pastry chef bible. Although I appreciated the book, I was too young and immature to fully understand what I had in my possession. I’m not even sure if I ever mailed the thank you card I intended to send.
I pulled the book from my shelf the other day. The well-traveled book moved with me from Michigan to Texas, and finally to California where I now reside. The book is in pristine condition and kept company by my ever-growing cookbook library. The pages are thin on my fingertips, written in an easy to understand way yet somehow stark and reminiscent of a college textbook. I scanned the chapters and found everything covered, from breads to cookies and cakes. I immediately fell in love with breadth of information and guidance given in the book. Why had I not done this sooner?
I spent several hours going through the book, but one simple recipe stuck out as the first to try, ‘traditional shortbread’. To say I love shortbread is an understatement, and I’ve tried so many times before to make the buttery little devils and each time with only moderate success. I planned my weekend shopping around the ingredients and set to work this morning on making the shortbread.
And, as you can see from the pics, they turned out beautifully …
adapted from The Professional Pastry Chef (3rd Edition)
10 oz. soft, unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 oz. powdered sugar
6 oz. bread flour
3 oz. rice flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Note: I’ve cut the original recipe in half as it makes a large quantity. Measurements are provided in weight for greater level of accuracy in making these cookies. I used all-purpose flour in place of bread flour, but did use rice flour.
Add butter, vanilla, and sugar to a mixing bowl and mix until creamy. It will resemble the most buttery buttercream frosting you’ve ever seen :-)
Slowly add the bread flour, rice flour, and salt. Once the dough forms, wrap in wax paper or plastic wrap and place into the refrigerator until firm.
The recipe suggests rolling the dough into a 8×6″ rectangle and placing onto a pan lined with baking paper. Once baked and while still warm, you can cut into strips and cool completely before removing from the pan. I opted to cut into individual cookies before placing onto the pan. Each cookie measured approximately 3″ by 1″, with a quarter inch thickness. I baked mine at 400 for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown on top. I suggest watching them closely as I didn’t, and some became darker than desired.
These shortbread and the best I’ve made yet. The cookies are firm yet give way to a tender structure, buttery and melt-in-your-mouth good. I’ve already consumed more than I should, and I need to lock the rest away in a tin. The house is distinctly scented with a rich browned-butter smell. I’m sure the neighbors are salivating and wondering what wonderful confection is cooling on my counters.
So as I gaze fondly on my ‘new’ book with shortbread crumbs still on my shirt, I feel badly that I didn’t properly thank Tita. I’ll take this opportunity now to let her know, that after these 10+ years, I dearly appreciate this book and will cherish it always — “Thank you, Tita!”