Showing posts with label shortbread. Show all posts
Showing posts with label shortbread. Show all posts

Friday, October 27, 2017

Halloween Shortbread

And here I thought I knew shortbread. Ha! Last summer I was rambling through the weekly Skibbereen Farmers Market and happened upon a booth I hadn’t seen there before. Its banner said “Susan’s Sweet Factory” but let me tell you, I could smell the butter long before I saw the sign. It’s fairly new—founded by two women last year. Of course I made a beeline for it, and bought some shamrock shortbread cookies to take home to the cottage.

Susan's shamrocks (they didn't last long!)
I didn’t eat any until I got back, but one bite and I was in love. They were light and sweet and you could taste the good Irish butter. They also held together surprisingly well, considering how light they were, even when packaged in bags. I went back to that booth the following week and bought more.

No, I didn’t beg for a recipe, but I found an important clue reading their website ( the shortbread cookies had cornstarch in them. I’d never heard of that, but when I started looking online for recipes for Irish shortbread, cornstarch was used regularly. As usual, between the Internet and my collection of Irish cookbooks I found plenty of recipes—but no two were the same. 

Which is ridiculous since there are usually only four ingredients in the shortbread: flour, sugar, butter and cornstarch. It was the proportions that varied among the recipes. So of course I had to try at least one, and I went with the simplest version. If that’s a bust, I’ll just have to try again (poor me!).

Irish Shortbread


2 sticks (1 cup) salted butter, softened 
(I use Kerrygold for almost everything these days)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cornstarch


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Cream together the butter and the sugar.

Sift together the flour and cornstarch.

Mix together the ingredients until they hold together (if they seem too dry, add a bit more soft butter). Form into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap (or use a plastic bag) and refrigerate for half an hour or more.

Roll out about 1/4 inch thick on a lightly floured surface and cut into shapes. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, and bake for 20 minutes. Do not allow to brown around the edges—they should be a pale gold.

You might have noticed that my cookies are colored orange and green. I divided my dough into two batches and colored each before chilling. [I discovered that it’s kind of hard to distribute liquid food coloring in dry ingredients. I subsequently discovered that after letting what little dough was left over sit overnight, the color dispersed quite nicely. I’m going to have to think about that.)

They didn’t turn out quite as light as Susan’s version, but I’ll be happy to keep trying.

And those of you who are serious gardeners—okay, the leaves don’t look like pumpkin leaves. At least I didn’t use the oak-leaf cutter. If you must, pretend they’re weeds that sneaked into the pumpkin patch.

Oh yes, the book. A Late Frost (Orchard Mystery #11) takes place in February, just about the dullest month of the year in rural Granford, Massachusetts. So of course there's an unexpected death for Meg and Seth to investigate.

Find it for pre-order at Amazon and Barnes and Noble (it won't be released in print until November 7th). As of this writing it seems to be on sale at both places, so check it out on Friday.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Almond Shortbread

Adapted from Favorite Irish Teatime Recipes

I promised you another cookie recipe, so here it is. Well, it’s not exactly a cookie, it’s a shortbread. They’re pretty easy to make, and not too sweet. This one’s a little different because it has a sort of meringue frosting on top, plus sliced almonds, which gives a nice crunch.

A note: a lot of recipes call for “rubbing in the butter” by hand. I often cheat and use a food processor, because (a) it’s faster, and (b) the butter is distributed more evenly. If you’re a traditional baker, go ahead and get your hands into the mixture. The result tastes good either way.

Almond Shortbread

5 oz./1 cup flour
1 heaping Tblsp ground rice (you could grind your own, 
   but I happened to have some rice flour on hand)
2 heaping Tblsp sugar
4 oz. (one-half stick) butter, at room temperature
4 egg yolks, beaten
1 egg white
4 oz./1 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 oz. sliced almonds

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F (yes, that's low). Grease a 7” round pan.

In a bowl, mix the flour, ground rice and sugar, then rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs (or use a food processor for the whole thing here).

Add the egg yolks and mix to form a stiff dough. Knead until smooth, then roll out on a lightly floured surface until it will fit into the pan. Press in until flat, then prick with a fork. 

Cover the dough with a piece of foil and bake for 25-30 minutes.

I had to include this--it's my antique sifter
Whisk the egg white until it forms soft peaks, the sift the confectioner’s sugar and fold it in.

Remove the pan from the oven, take off the foil, and spread the icing mixture over the top. Sprinkle with the almonds, then return to the oven and bake for another 20-25 minutes.

After the first baking

After the second baking
Cool the shortbread in the pan, then cut into wedges when it is cool.


A Turn for the Bad (County Cork Mystery #4) is a Barnes and Noble mass market bestseller for three weeks in a row! You can order it at Barnes and Noble and Amazon, or look for it in your local bookstores.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Coconut Sugar Shortbread

 by Sheila Connolly

I’m not usually a fad-follower, whether it’s fashion or food. But this past week my supermarket was featuring coconut sugar. I’d never heard of it (although I admit to having coconut oil in my pantry). But as you might guess from my posts here, I’m a big fan of sweet things, so I decided it was worth trying. After all, how can you resist a label that says the product is “made from fresh coconut tree sap collected from cut flower buds”? I’m still puzzling about how the sap comes from the buds, and who the heck collects it, but I’ll go with it. By the way, it does not taste like coconut.

Online sources claim that it’s good for us, too. One says “It provides the same number of calories and carbohydrates as regular cane sugar . . . However, coconut sugar is 70 to 79 percent sucrose and only three percent to nine percent each of fructose and glucose. This is an advantage, because you want to keep your consumption of fructose as low as possible, and cane sugar is 50 percent fructose.” We might argue that eating sugary food is never good for us, but it sure does taste nice!

Coconut sugar, up close

So I went hunting for a recipe. I wanted to keep it simple, so I could taste the sugar (which is said to have caramel overtones). The recipe on the package was a bit too “crunchy granola” for me, and besides, I don’t have any hempseed on hand. But I did come across a couple of shortbread recipes, which are simple and should showcase the sugar well. (I often make Scotch Shortbread, which has ginger in it—it’s one of my all-time go-to recipes, from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookies and Candies cookbook that I bought in 1972 for $1.95.) So here goes the experiment:

Coconut Sugar Shortbread
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1 cup flour

A recipe doesn’t get much simpler, does it? Other versions I’ve seen substitute various flour products—tapioca flour, rice flour (both of which I do happen to have)—but I thought I’d stick to the basics for my first time out.

You may use salted butter. If you use unsalted, add a pinch of salt.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

I usually use an 8” round pan for my shortbread, but you can go free-form and shape it on a cookie sheet. You may grease it, or line it with parchment paper, but given the amount of butter in the recipe, it’s not essential. And you’re going to eat it directly from the pan anyway.

Butter and sugar
In a bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the flour, and mix until the dough sticks together.

Press it into your pan (or shape it into a circle). With a fork, prick lines where you’re going to cut it when it’s baked. This is both traditional and allows air to escape so the shortbread stays flat.

Bake for about 30 minutes (the shortcake won’t brown), then let cool.

Cut into wedges along the pricked lines. Make yourself a cup of tea, and sit down and enjoy!

My verdict: It's darker than I expected, and the flavor is kind of molasses-y. It's also chewier than traditional shortbread. But I think I like it. Let me eat a few more pieces to be sure!

Doesn't A Gala Event look like it's ready for the holidays?

You can order it at Barnes and Noble and Amazon, and at your favorite bookstore (I hope!).

Friday, September 18, 2015

Parmesan Shortbread for #bookclubweek

Okay, shameless plug: it's
coming out on October 6th.
You can preorder it at the
usual places.
by Sheila Connolly

In the real world, we’re in the thick of the apple harvest (which runs from August to November). In fictional Granford, Massachusetts, it’s December, and Meg and Seth are finally getting married. Having your main characters get married is always a tricky decision for a writer, so it’s a great subject for book club discussions.

I say “finally,” but that’s a question for book clubs: should protagonists get married? When? Is there a “too soon,” or a “too late?” Does it change the dynamic of the relationship? Or is it just a natural evolution for a couple who are good together?

These days it seem like more and more people aren’t even bothering about official ceremonies, even when the kids come along. No, nothing happening on that front with Meg and Seth, but I never say never—and there’s another question: do children belong in a story where one or both parents are busy chasing criminals around, thereby putting themselves and their children at risk? It certainly adds a level of complication, if you have young children to think about. It’s bad enough with pets, because you have to remember in the book to feed and walk them. You can’t just go off sleuthing for a day or two without making arrangements.

People say that planning a wedding is a major challenge. There’s even an entire industry built around it. No surprise, Meg and Seth are having trouble getting anything set up. First they’re too busy with their respective professions (growing apples and renovating houses), and then there’s this pesky crime to solve. The professions they can’t exactly walk away from, but the crime-solving is optional. Why should a character choose to solve a crime rather than deal with his/her own tasks? Aren’t there law-enforcement officials around somewhere? Not all officers of the law are arrogant idiots, are they?

Some brides-to-be (or their mothers) fantasize about a fancy church event with hundreds of people watching, and six or ten attendants in tacky dresses, and a five-foot-tall cake, and a bill that’s enough for a down payment on a modest house. Meg and Seth just want something simple with all their friends and family around them, and some good food (since there’s a nice restaurant in Granford, that one’s not a problem). Are they wrong? Will they look back and regret passing up the Big Do later?

The “case” they’re looking at is something that happened in Granford twenty-five years earlier. Seth was a child, and Meg wasn’t even in Granford then. Why should they get involved in solving it? Why do they think there’s any information available now that might not have been considered back then? (Remember, those were the days before CSI.)

Sometimes when a case is solved, there may be a resolution, but not always a pleasing one. Do readers want a “happy” ending? A “just” one?
Is a wedding a “happy” ending?

I’m pretty sure that book club members like to snack while they talk (as long as they aren’t leaving crumbs and greasy fingerprints in the books!). Some of you may recognize this recipe from earlier this year, as Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies. I fell in love with the recipe because it's so easy. Since then I’ve been experimenting with alternatives using different flavorings and mini-chips, and they’ve all been good. (They may come back at Christmas—chocolate cookies, with white chocolate chips or mint chips, plain cookies with toffee chips or butterscotch chips…the list goes on.)

But for Book Club Week, I thought I’d give you something savory (what? No chocolate?), with a bit of cheese. If you look online you’ll find a variety of parmesan sticks, but none with this kind of buttery dough. So here’s the cookie recipe minus the sugar, but plus parmesan, and a little red pepper for kick.

Parmesan Shortbread

8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, 
   at room temperature
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (not the stuff in a jar!)
A dash of cayenne pepper (optional)

Warning: the batter has to chill for at least two hours before you cut out the cookies, so either allow plenty of time, or chill overnight.

With an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium for about 3 minutes or until smooth.

Sift together the flour and salt. With the mixer on low, beat in the flour mixture until it just disappears into the butter mixture (do not overbeat, or the bars will be tough!).

Add the Parmesan cheese and mix just enough to combine (if you use the mixer, keep it on low).

(I love this part!) Put the dough into a one-gallon ziploc bag (that zips!). On a flat surface, roll the dough out until it reaches all the edges and corners of the bag (this was the fun part! No muss, no fuss, and you know exactly what size you’re getting). It should be about 1/4 inch thick.

Chill the dough until firm (I put it on a cookie sheet in the fridge), at least 2 hours.

When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. (Depending on what size and shape cookies you’re making, you may not need both. They don't spread while cooking.)

Take the dough out of the fridge and cut the bag away. You may cut the nice, neat squares of dough with a knife or use cookie cutters (don’t choose really complicated ones, because the dough can be a little fragile). 

Ready to bake...
Place the cut shapes on the parchment paper. If you like, sprinkle some more grated cheese on top. Bake in the preheated oven about 18-20 minutes, turning the cookie sheets once to make sure they cook evenly. You don’t want them to get brown, so watch them carefully toward the end.

...and baked!
Cool completely—and enjoy!


Friday, May 29, 2015

Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies

by Sheila Connolly

This recipe is just too easy. Five ingredients, including a half-pound of butter. And a whole new way (to me, anyway) of rolling them out.

For many years I’ve been searching for a cookie recipe to recreate a kind of cookie I used to get at Trost’s Bakery in Summit, New Jersey (Peg, you remember that?). The bakery is long gone, and I have no idea who inherited the recipes. The cookies were thin, crisp buttery squares with lots of mini chocolate chips.

After a couple of weeks of consuming mushrooms, I was ready for a change of pace. Plus it’s supposed to be in the eighties this week in my end of New England, and I figured I should get my baking done before the kitchen gets too hot. So I went hunting on the Internet. I will confess: it was a pop-up ad for shortbread cookies that I saw out of the corner of my eye, and I had an aha! moment: shortbread!.

So I searched, and this is what I came up with (to give credit where it is due, it comes from a 2012 post on a blog called The Cake Merchant. If I find the author Natasha, I may kiss her feet.

Natasha’s Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies

8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (I used Penzey’s concentrated version, so you might want a bit more)
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups mini chocolate chips

Warning: the batter has to chill for at least two hours before you cut out the cookies, so either allow plenty of time, or chill overnight.

With an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium for about 3 minutes or until smooth. Add the vanilla extract and beat.

With the mixer on low, beat in the flour until it just disappears into the butter mixture (do not overbeat, or the cookies will be tough!).

Fold in the chocolate chips (if you use the mixer, keep in on low).

 Put the dough into a one-gallon ziploc bag (that zips!). On a flat surface, roll the dough out until it reaches all the edges and corners of the bag (this was the fun part! No muss, no fuss, and you know exactly what size you’re getting). It should be about 1/4 inch thick.

It worked! Isn't that tidy?

Chill the dough until firm (I put it on a cookie sheet in the fridge), at least 2 hours.

When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. (Depending on what size and shape cookies you’re making, you may not need both.)

Take the dough out of the fridge and cut the bag away. You may cut the nice, neat square of dough with a knife (these cookies are about 2-1/2” square), or use cookie cutters. I took the simplest way.

Ready for the oven

Place the cookies on the parchment paper. Bake in the preheated oven about 18-20 minutes, turning the cookie sheets once to make sure they cook evenly. You don’t want them to get brown, so watch them carefully toward the end.

Cool completely—and enjoy!

I think I’m going to try this with toffee chunks next—I don’t think this first batch is going to last long!

Yes, the new Museum Mystery, Privy to the Dead--arriving in four days!

There is more to history than the pretty stuff in glass cases in museum. You never know what you're going to dig up--and it might be evidence of a murder.

Available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble and everywhere else (I hope!)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

How to Make Cuban Sugar Cookies (Torticas de Moron) and Cuban Coffee by Cleo Coyle

Today marks the 112th anniversary of Cuba’s independence from Spain (May 20, 1902), a great excuse to celebrate Cuban cuisine with a popular cookie and, of course, Cuban coffee!

Cleo Coyle has a partner in
crime-writing—her husband.
Learn about their books
by clicking here and here.
Cleo Coyle’s
"Torticas de Morón"

Cuban Sugar Cookies

Torticas de Morón are melt-in-your mouth sugar-sprinkled shortbread cookies with a hint of lime (or lemon). They are fantastic with coffee, especially strong Cuban coffee. They also make lovely tea cakes.

The cookies were originally created in the city of Morón in central Cuba. Bakers have produced many variations. 
Some use eggs, some do not. Some add flavorings like vanilla and rum. Others even add a dab of chocolate or guava jelly to the center like a thumbprint cookie. 

In my version, I’m keeping things simple to preserve the character of the basic shortbread with a hint of citrus. I also do something special with the shortening (more on that in the recipe below.)

Note: The final addition of egg white on top of each cookie is something I learned from a Cuban-American baker and it's a step I highly recommend. Not only does the egg wash help keep the cookies from crumbling, it allows the sugar to adhere to the cookies while baking. And if you sample the cookies while still warm, you'll notice the egg wash brings a slightly chewy texture to the top surfaces, which makes a fantastic contrast you'll fully appreciate as you sink your teeth into these crumbly, melt-in-your mouth treats. 

Now let's start baking!
 ~ Cleo

For a free PDF of this recipe (with step-by-step photos) that you can print, save, or share, click here

Click here for PDF.

Makes about
2 dozen cookies                                              


2-1/3 cups all-purpose white flour
1-1/2 teaspoon lime or lemon zest (grated skin of fruit, no white pith)
1 cup white, granulated sugar (+ extra for topping)
1 cup shortening (see my note*)
1 large egg (divided into yolk and white)

*Cleo note: Shortening can be butter or lard or a combination. Many recipes use 100% butter. Be sure to use salted butter because with so little liquid in this recipe, the salt needs to be distributed via the butter. In my version of this cookie, I use ½ salted butter and ½ virgin coconut oil (chilled to give it solid form). Coconut is a popular flavor in Cuban cuisine and the coconut oil lends a lovely light hint of coconut to the shortbread. I highly recommend this combo, it’s delicious! For more info on coconut oil—what it is and which kind you should buy, read my past recipe post on Chocolate Ricotta Muffins by clicking here.


(1) Make and chill dough: Whisk together the flour and lime zest. Set aside. Now you’ll work with the shortening. Make sure your butter is softened and/or your coconut oil is solid. Add the sugar. Using an electric mixture, cream the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk (save the white for the next step). Beat with mixer until the egg is blended in. Now add the flour-lime mixture, a few tablespoons at a time. 

Beat until incorporated and then add more until all the flour is well blended into the dough. Use your hands to squeeze together dough pieces. Knead a little, working with the dough until it’s smooth and form it into a ball. 

Turn the dough onto a parchment paper covered surface and work with the dough, shaping it into a thick cylinder of 2-inches in diameter. To get the log nice and smooth as shown, use the parchment paper to help roll it. 

Now roll up the dough cylinder in the parchment paper and place it in the refrigerator, chilling for at least 30 minutes. If you want to chill it longer (overnight or one or two days, wrap it tightly in plastic).

(2) Slice, top, and bake: Traditionally, the thickness of the cookie should be about 1 centimeter (a little less than ½ inch). So slice up the log and place the slices on a parchment lined baking sheet. 

Fork-whisk the egg white with a few drops of water. Brush the tops of the cookies with the egg wash and finish with a sprinkling of sugar. 

Bake in a preheated oven at 300°F for about 30 minutes (check them at 25). Finished cookies should be cooked through the center but still mostly cream-colored on the surface with light browning around the top edges and bottoms. 

Care for some Cuban coffee 

with your Cuban cookies? 

Here's a little video (featured on my website) that will show you how to make it. My husband and I often make Cuban coffee with our stovetop espresso maker. It's a delicious treat. 



For a free PDF of this recipe,
click here. Now...

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Eat (and read) with joy! 

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Yes, this is me, Cleo (aka Alice). 
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Just Released!

The NEW Coffeehouse Mystery!

Filled with wonderful twists
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This culinary mystery includes
more than 25 delicious recipes!
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Join amateur sleuth Clare Cosi
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The bestselling Penguin hardcover 
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A Best of the Year Pick ~ Kings River Life 
"Fresh and fun...clever" ~ Booklist
A Mystery Guild Selection 


Join coffeehouse manager Clare Cosi as she solves the crime against "Sleeping Beauty," opens secret doors (uptown and down), and investigates a cold case that's been unsolved since the Cold War.


Wonderful recipes are also featured
in Cleo's 14th culinary mystery, Once Upon a Grind including...

* Dairy-Free "Cinderella" Pumpkin Cake
* Dairy-Free Almond Milk Custard
* Caramel-Dipped Meltaway Cookies 
* Black Forest Brownies 
* Cappuccino Blondies 
* Shrimp Kiev
* Dr Pepper Glazed Chicken
* Silver Dollar Chocolate Chip Cookies
* Poor Man's Caviar
* Snow White Chocolate Mocha

...and many more recipes, including 
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See Once Upon a Grind's 
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The Coffeehouse Mysteries are bestselling
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Book #1 of
which Cleo write under the name 
Alice Kimberly

Haunted Bookshop 

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