Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Lemon Curd Almond Shortbread

Cookies. Kids love them, right?  Well I didn't. That is until shortbread found its way into my young life via Nabisco. How was I ever to know that those usually crunchy, hard things could melt in your mouth? And when they did, I was hooked. Could that childhood memory lead to a new, improved version sans the assistance of a multinternational conglomerate? Bien sûr!

One aspect of living in France that speaks to me is the ease with which one can find ground nuts, especially almond and chestnut, which usually are stocked in regular supermarkets. These 'flours' are added to tortes, tart crust, crêpes, and sablés (French shortbread); their contribution of flavour, texture, and nutrition is significant. It just happens that there is some homemade lemon curd in the house, and as its pairing with shortbread is nothing short of sublime, who am I to keep those two from each other?

makes sixteen 7.5 cm rounds

  • Lemon curd, about 16 heaping teaspoons, recipe here, ample enough for these shortbreads
  • Sugar, icing/powdered/confectioners, 90 grams
  • Flour, plain, 185 grams
  • Cornflour/starch, 60 grams
  • Almonds, ground, 30 grams
  • Butter, 250 grams, cut into small pieces
  • Vanilla extract, a scant 1/8 teaspoon
  • Extra icing sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Sift together into a medium-sized mixing bowl the icing sugar, flour, cornflour, and ground almonds. Add the vanilla extract and the butter, working the mixture with your fingers until it resembles coarse sand (it took me about five minutes). Press the mass to see if it mostly comes together.

Then turn out onto a floured surface and lightly knead a couple of times to get a smooth ball. First divide it into two roughly equal pieces, and then keep halving each resulting division into two until there are sixteen in total. Form into small balls. Gently press one into each cup.  The dough should fill about one third of the tin. As the pieces won't be identical in size, you could pinch a bit off the more heftier ones to boost the size of the smaller ones which will encourage more even baking.

I used a full twelve-cup muffin pan and a six-cup one though there were two empty places! Depending on what you have available, you may need to bake in batches, making sure that the pan to be reused has cooled off before placing dough in it.

Bake for fifteen to eighteen minutes until golden. Wait a minute and then make a well in each shortbread using your thumb or a couple of fingers, protecting them with a tiny piece of paper towel. Wait a few minutes more until there is a slight pulling away from the sides of the muffin tins. Carefully upturn the pans and while gently tapping each cup, remove all the shortbreads.

There's the bit of paper towel I used in the left upper corner! 

Let cool on a rack (I used one from the oven).

Lightly dust them with icing sugar. You may want to test one to see if that extra sweetness is a little too much. It sure looks pretty though! Then put a heaping teaspoon of curd into each depression. Though I wouldn't refuse a packaged shortbread, I certainly prefer homemade. These were fun to make and beyond delicious to eat.

The best way to get an even dusting of icing sugar is to use a small sieve

The weather is still remarkably warm which has encouraged some irises to put out an autumnal blooming.

Crimson mums in the left background and  two, makeshift bird baths to the right of them

Comme d'habitude, I didn't deadhead the hydrangeas, as their dusty violet and silver tracery is one of the joys of the autumn/winter garden.

We now know why Dirac the kitten bites onto a hacky sack for about five minutes straight. He is going through pronounced teething and has cleverly chosen his own teething ring!

Thank goodness we have a ton of these cloth 'pucks'!

À la prochaine!