Now I know that I started my monthly baking project not only as a way to get out of baking ruts, but also to challenge myself. But pound cake? Popovers? Do those really count as “challenging” baked goods? When I first embarked on the project I had visions of making laminated doughs and cream puffs, but, so far, my (admittedly poor) sense of time management has steered me towards dishes that I can make in an evening.
Still, I had fully intended that March was going to be different. March was going to be something really challenging – gougères, souffles, génoise. I envisioned myself getting the kitchen table covered in flour as I rolled out some elaborate puff pastry creation.
But then I had these cinnamon chocolate shortbread cookies and fell so deeply in love that I just had to make March all about shortbread.
Perhaps this baking project is actually appropriate, since I’ve been deeply puzzled about shortbread ever since I made Michelle Obama’s shortbread cookies. I had always though that shortbread was a crisp, hard, and dry butter cookie – like Pepperidge Farm’s shortbread cookies.
In fact, I had never really been very interested in making shortbread because I like a chewier cookie, which is why I’m a great fan of drop cookies like chocolate chip. But Michelle’s cookies were different – they had the deep butter flavor that I expect of a shortbread cookie, but they were also chewy and moist and delicious.
I made these excellent chocolate shortbread cookies for a Superheroes for Democracy (who are blogging once again!) party that we attended a couple of weeks ago. I found the recipe in Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook, which I have on loan from the library, and I really fell in love with the picture. But the taste is amazing – the deep chocolate flavor compliments the savory butter flavor, and I loved the contrasting texture of the sugar sprinkled on top. They were drier than Michelle’s cookies, but nothing like the hard, dry texture that I originally associated with shortbread. Instead, these were crumbly, fudgy, and just a little moist. The hint of cinnamon is the perfect accent to the chocolate. And the best part is that they were ready in about an hour! What’s better than that?
Chocolate Shortbread Fingers
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook, by Martha Stewart
1 1/2 cups plus two tbs all-purpose flour
4 1/2 tbs dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
1 cup superfine sugar*
Granulated sugar (for sprinkling)
Preheat oven to 325 Fahrenheit. Butter a 12 by 8 inch pan (note, I used a 13 by 9 inch pan and this worked fine) and line with parchment paper or foil.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda.
Place butter and superfine sugar in a mixing bowl and beat until light and fluffy – three to four minutes (if you’re using a Kitchen Aid mixer, use the paddle attachment). Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the flour mixture. Beat until just combined.
Spread dough in pan, using a spatula or your fingers to even out the surface. Freeze dough until firm – approximately 15 minutes. Prick dough all over with the tines of a fork, and place in the oven. Bake 20 minutes. Dough should be just firm to the touch.
Place the dough (still in the pan) on a wire rack to cool. While it is still hot, cut dough into fingers, and sprinkle with granulated sugar. The dough should cool completely in the pan.
*Note: if you don’t have superfine sugar (and I bet you don’t), you can easily make your own. Just process regular sugar in a food processor or blender until powdery. Remember to measure the sugar after you process it, as the volume will change.