Sunday, February 10, 2019

Scotch Shortbread Cookies

Scotch Shortbread Cookies
Source: Maida Heatter's Book of Great Desserts (Andrews & McMeel Publishing, 1999 ed.), pg. 235.

I must confess that I am not a big fan of shortbread but Michael loves it. I made these for his birthday and he loved them. The Swedish Jelly Cookies are one of his favorites and although technically they are not shortbread, they do remind me of these cookies. He thought so too and put apricot preserves with them.

The dough did not hold together that well for me and I almost added more butter but decided against that. This could have been an issue with the butter temperature. I let it sit for a while on the counter to come to room temperature and perhaps it needs to be very cold. Even though the dough did come together in the mixer, it did when I kneaded it but was still very crumbly. This recipe creates a bit of a mess and when the cookies are finished, you can expect lots of crumbs when transferring them to the rack. 

So, this was definitely a "trial and error" recipe but overall, an easy one with a minimum of ingredients.

1/2 lb. (2 sticks) butter
1 cup strained confectioners sugar
1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups strained cornstarch

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixer bowl, beat the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and beat for a few minutes. Lower the speed of the mixer and gradually add the flour and cornstarch, beating until it holds together. (I had a problem with this and the mixture refused to hold together. I beat it for several minutes and went ahead and transferred it to the board and kneaded it and it did come together).

Turn out onto a board and knead lightly. Use one half of the dough at a time. Keep the dough that you are not currently using in an airtight container.

Roll the dough to 1/4 to 1/3 thickness. Cut out rounded pieces with a cookie cutter. Re-roll the remaining scraps of dough. Place the cookies on an unbuttered cookie sheet. 

Pierce each cookie three times with a fork. (Confession - I forgot to do this and they turned out fine)

Bake for 20-22 minutes, rotating the pan half-way through. The cookies are done when they are barely colored (not brown). Do not overbake. Transfer to a baking rack to cool.

Taking a hint from another great recipe - Swedish Jelly Cookies - you might serve these with a collop of apricot preserves.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Orange Chiffon Cake

Orange Chiffon Cake (Source: Maida Heatter's Cakes (Andrews & McMeel Publishing, 2011 ed., pg. 28).

I wasn't familiar with the history of the chiffon cake until I read about it in Maida's book. An insurance salesman and hobbyist baker by the name of Henry Baker invented the recipe in 1927. It took Hollywood by storm and he provided celebrities and restaurants with specially made cakes for twenty years. In the late 40s, he sold the recipe to General Mills (Betty Crocker ) and they later revealed it's unique secret - vegetable oil as opposed to butter or shortening.

The cake is delicious and easy to make. When folding the egg yolk mixture with the egg whites, you don't want to overdo it and deflate the consistency. You also want to whip the egg whites past the peak stage but not until they are dry. Also, do not substitute the orange juice with lemon juice or the cake will fall.

The cake is very tall and light in texture. The whipped cream chocolate frosting is entirely optional but I can tell you that it compliments the cake nicely (the combination of orange and chocolate is one of my favorites). 

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
7 large eggs, separated
Finely grated rind of 2 lemons
Finely grated rind of 3 oranges
3/4 cup orange juice
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar

Chocolate Whipped Cream Icing (optional)
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup sifted confectioners sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch process)
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. You will use a 10x14" Angel Food pan (the kind that comes apart in two pieces). Do not butter the pan.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Use a spatula to make a trench in the middle of the bowl. Add the oil, egg yolks (reserving the whites), lemon and orange zest and the orange juice to the trench. 

Whisk the mixture together with the flour until it is smooth.

Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until they hold a stiff peak.

Fold 3/4 of the egg yolk mixture into the whites. Then fold the whites into the remaining yolk mixture. Just do this until the mixture is combined - do not overbeat it.

Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake for 55-60 minutes. (Note: Maida says to increase the oven temperature to 350 and bake an additional 10 or 15 minutes but I do not believe this is necessary. My cake was done after the initial 55 minute baking at 325. Press the top of the cake and it should bounce back slowly if it is done.)

Hang the pan upside down on a bottle neck or a funnel and allow it to cool completely.

After it has cooled, you can remove it carefully from the pan by running a sharp knife around the perimeter of the pan and the center section. Or you can freeze the cake - if freezing, leave it in the pan and wrap it in aluminum foil.

You can sprinkle the cake with confectioners sugar or opt to cover it with the following frosting (you can also use the frosting as a sauce on the side) -

Chill your mixer bowl and the whisk beater in the freezer (it only takes 5 or 10 minutes). Now whip all the ingredients (heavy cream, confectioners sugar, cocoa, salt and vanilla extract) together until it holds a shape. Frost the cake and you will need to refrigerate it. Maida also says that strawberries are nice to add as a garnish.