Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Gay Lea's Shortbread Bliss 2012

I have always associated Christmas with delicious baked goods. My grandmothers both baked up a storm in the weeks leading up to Christmas Eve, in preparation for guests and family gatherings. We were always well-stocked with a selection of squares, chocolatey snowballs, and shortbreads. And these days, I am the one whipping up dozens of crumbly, melt-in-your mouth shortbreads for my family.

The key to the perfect shortbread is an excellent butter. So it is only natural that the fine folks at Gay Lea Foods, Ontario's largest dairy cooperative, have developed two new shortbread recipes embracing current food trends for this season. “Dessert trends are always evolving and this also applies to shortbread,” says Amy Snider-Whitson, president of The Test Kitchen Incorporated. “This year, we are seeing an emphasis on the combination of sweet and salty as well as unique beverage- inspired flavours.”

To provide Canadians with the best of these trends, Gay Lea Foods have used their baking expertise to create two new recipes that are sure to put a delicious twist on these traditional holiday treats.

Mulled Cider Bars: A rich holiday delight, these shortbread bars boast a decadent apple cider and brown sugar filling. Top with a dusting of icing sugar and ground cinnamon to bring out warm seasonal flavours.

2 cups all-purpose flour 500 mL
¾ cup cold Gay Lea Unsalted Butter, 175 mL
cut into cubes
½ cup instant dissolving sugar 125 mL
½ tsp salt 2 mL
6 egg yolks 6
2 cups instant dissolving sugar 500 mL
⅓ cup all-purpose flour 75 mL
1 ½ cups apple cider 375 mL
2 tsp finely grated orange zest 10 mL
2 tsp ground cinnamon 10 mL
1 tsp baking powder 5 mL
½ tsp ground nutmeg 2 mL
2 tbsp icing sugar 30 mL

Crust: Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Combine the flour, butter, sugar and salt in a food processor; pulse until crumbly. Firmly press the dough into a 9 x 13-inch (3 L) baking pan lined with foil. Bake for 25 minutes or until pale golden around the edges.
Filling: Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and flour until a very thick paste forms. Whisk in the apple cider, orange zest, cinnamon, baking powder and nutmeg until smooth. Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F (150°C). Pour the egg mixture over the hot crust. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until just set. Cool to room temperature. Chill for at least 4 hours or until firm. Dust the top with the icing sugar and slice into bars.

Sweet And Salty Shortbread Mounds: These melt-in-your-mouth peanut butter shortbread balls are delicately dipped in chocolate and garnished with crushed peanuts and salty pretzel pieces. Not only are they a delicious treat, but when decoratively packaged, make the perfect hostess gift.

1 cup softened Gay Lea Unsalted Butter 250 mL
1 cup instant dissolving sugar 250 mL
½ cup smooth peanut butter 125 mL
1 tsp vanilla extract 5 mL
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour 550 mL
½ tsp salt 2 mL
½ cup crumbled, salted pretzel sticks 125 mL
½ cup chopped, salted roasted peanuts 125 mL
Chocolate Glaze:
¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips 175 mL
3 tbsp Gay Lea Unsalted Butter 45 mL
1 tbsp corn syrup 15 mL

Beat the butter with the sugar, peanut butter and vanilla until fluffy. Beat the flour and salt into the butter mixture just until combined. Stir in the pretzels and peanuts. Chill for 15 minutes or until easy to handle.
Roll 1 tbsp (15 mL) portions of the dough into balls. Arrange the balls, about 1-inch (2.5 cm) apart, on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Chill for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Bake, in batches, for 14 to 16 minutes or just until pale golden on the bottom (do not over-bake). Cool completely on the baking sheets.
Chocolate Glaze: Melt the chocolate chips with the butter and corn syrup until smooth.
Dip the top of each cookie into the chocolate mixture. Sprinkle with additional finely
chopped pretzels and peanuts to garnish. Let stand until chocolate is set.
Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

You can find many other delicious and inventive shortbread recipes on the Gay Lea website. While you are deciding which recipes to try, here are some general tips from Gay Lea's shortbread experts to help you create your best cookies every time.

Shortbread Bliss 2012

Expert Baking Tips

• For the best taste and baking results, never substitute margarine in place of real butter.
• Always use unsalted butter, unless the recipe calls for salted butter.
• When using eggs, they should be at room temperature.
• Softened butter should be pliable without being melted or greasy.

• Wooden spoons work best to combine wet and dry ingredients. The wet ingredients stick to the wood and attract the dry ingredients as you stir. Ingredients simply slide off plastic or metal spoons.
• If you don’t have a food processor, simply use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut the butter into the flour.
• When rolling dough, ideal surfaces include: a pastry cloth, marble or granite surfaces or a regular, smooth countertop.
• Plastic or wooden cutting boards are not optimal and may not be large enough for rolling out the dough.

Did you know:
Shortbread is a dessert of Scottish origin and has been a holiday indulgence since the 16th century. Traditionally, shortbread was baked into a round and cut into triangles often referred to as ‘petticoat tails’. The dough freezes well and is quick to thaw, making it the perfect holiday treat.

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