Friday, July 27, 2012

Two Shortbread Recipes, Perfect for Any Time of Year

Shortbread Fingers with Lavender and Cocoa Shortbread with Chiles. The buttery crumb can’t be beat.

Shortbread with a little nightcap can set the stage for a lovely holiday gathering or the perfect way to end a dinner party. The “short” in shortbread derives from shortening, and anyone familiar with these delicate confections knows that butter plays a prominent role in its flavor and crumb. Culinary scholars like to attribute its 16th-century invention to Mary, Queen of Scots, but many believe the confection is derived from medieval times, when yeasty biscuits were baked twice, hardened into rusks, and sprinkled with sugar and other spices. Today, we eliminate the yeast and only use four basic kitchen staples to create this centuries-old cookie: butter, sugar, salt, and flour. Mix them all up, and form the doughy mass less than a half-inch thick on a baking sheet, and bake.

While “plain” shortbread is fine for your party, we like to add a few ingredients to create a more flavorful crumb. The lavender shortbread is a perfect partner for a Rusty Nail. The floral notes in the buds lend old-world lightness to the sweet and peaty punch in this classic drink. It also pairs exceedingly well with our newest drink, courtesy of Jerry Sheets (Steve’s mom’s husband), called Scotch Aggravation [SEE RECIPE BELOW]. This mix of your favorite blended scotch, with milk and coffee liqueur, will remove any lingering irritations you have carried over into your evening. It tastes a bit like smoked chocolate milk. And if you’re a fan of chiles and chocolate, our Cocoa Shortbread with Chiles will brighten up your taste buds as you sip a creamy, cooling cocktail, such as a Maltese. If the Queen of Scotland had hot peppers and chocolate at her disposal, we’re certain she would have made these her go-to snacks while relaxing at the end of a long workday with a flagon of scotch.

Use cookie cutters to create fun shapes with your shortbread dough.

Shortbread Fingers with Lavender
(adapted by Cocktail Buzz)

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup superfine sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried lavender buds, slightly ground or rubbed between the fingers, plus 1 pinch
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour

Cocoa Shortbread with Chiles
(adapted by Cocktail Buzz)

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup superfine sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried hot chiles, ground (or chile powder), plus 1 pinch
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Total Time: 50 minutes

Mix butter, sugar, salt, lavender or ground chiles, and vanilla in a bowl until blended well. Add flour (and cocoa, if using) 1/4 cup at a time to the mixture and, using a fork, mix well until the dough comes together. Chill for a half hour. Meanwhile, center the rack in the oven and preheat to 375ºF. Place dough on a naked cookie sheet and, using your hands, form into a rectangle about 12 inches by 3 inches. Sprinkle with a pinch of either rubbed lavender buds or chile powder, depending on the style of shortbread you chose. Prick the dough with the fork over the entire surface. Using a butter knife, score the dough crosswise so that there will be 12 pieces. Bake for about 15–20 minutes, or until the edges are golden. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes (the shortbread will still be warm), then slice through the scoring using a sharp knife. Transfer to a flat surface and cool thoroughly

Tips & Tricks
  • You can shape the shortbread dough into a circle and score it so that you will have wedge-shaped cookies. If simple shapes aren’t floating your boat, and you’re making the lavender shortbread, why not use your favorite cookie cutters to create fun shapes. Just shorten baking time by five minutes.
  • If you want your cocoa shortbread spicier, add up to a quarter teaspoon more of the ground chiles or chile powder.

Scotch Aggravation
(adapted by Cocktail Buzz from a recipe by Jerry Sheets)

1 1/2 ounces blended scotch
1 1/2 ounces Kahlúa (or other coffee liqueur)

In an ice-filled rocks glass, add the scotch and Kahlúa, then as much or as little milk as you desire. Stir.

❤ ❤ ❤

More Cocktails to Pair with Shortbread
Rusty Nail (scotch, Drambuie)
The Maltese (Catdaddy spiced moonshine, coffee, cream, egg white, molasses, spiced chocolate shavings)
Farrah Fawcett (light rum, advocate, banana liqueur, coconut, blueberries)
Jack Twist (walnut-infused Jack Daniels, walnut liqueur, dark brown sugar, lemon twist)
White Russian (vodka, coffee liqueur, milk or cream)
Sombrero (coffee liqueur, milk or cream)
Marianne at Midnight (scotch, Tuaca, crème de violette)

photos © Steve Schul and Paul Zablocki, Cocktail Buzz

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Now Is the Time to Imbibe a Daiquiri

The luminescence of a classic Daiquiri will light up your night.  

Ask anyone from the North Pole to Tierra del Fuego about the Daiquiri, and she will probably say, “I love Daiquiris. I drink them all the time.” Chances are the version she’s drinking is a frozen Daiquiri, and perhaps one with strawberry, banana, or some fruit other than just lime tossed into the blender. This is fine if you like slushy drinks. (Slushy drinks are enjoying a cocktail renaissance at the moment and, during these dog days of summer, may be just what the doctor ordered!) But we’re here to proffer a less noisy interpretation of the original Daiquiri, one that doesn’t involve worrying about having enough ice in the freezer, or a blender that is sturdy enough to grind it to fine crystals; one that goes back to its roots as one of “six basic cocktails” according to David A. Embury is his seminal mid-20th-century classic The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks.

In his recipe, he mixes two ounces of rum with a half ounce of lime juice, and a quarter ounce of simple syrup, making the finished product a little tart to the uninitiated. No offense to Mr. Embury and his mandate for imbibing pre-prandial drinks on the drier side, but the palate has changed thanks to the disco era’s swirl of cavity-inducing cocktails, and as a result, we crave drinks a little sweeter. But don’t worry, we only use a tablespoon of sugar per drink, which is double the amount Mr. Embury decrees. (And if you wish to keep with tradition and invoke his recipe to the letter, by all means do. It is your drink, after all, and we won’t mind one iota.)

What we discovered when trying to come up with the perfect recipe for the Daiquiri, one that would work with a variety of party food, isn’t really the amount of sugar or light rum in the drink, but the quality of the lime. Pick the freshest one you can find, one so fresh that, when you cut it in half, the oils from the peel mix with the pulpy juice and instantly hit your nose with the smell of its fresh limy essence. After you toss some wedges into a mixing glass along with the white sugar crystals and muddle the heck out of the pair, you will be left with the most delicious juice possible. The oils are released from the sugar crystals abrading the lime peel, and they dissolve in the chartreuse-colored juice.

But what about the strangely spelled name daiquiri? Where does it come from? A little Web-sleuthing reveals that the name derives from Daiquirí (die-key-REE), a beach and an iron mine in Santiago, Cuba, where it was putatively invented by American mining engineer Jennings Cox, who happened to be in Cuba at the time of the Spanish-American War. As the twentieth century progressed, and relations with Latin American countries, such as Cuba, prospered, rum consumption grew, and the Daiquiri, as well as all things Latin American, spiked in popularity.

Although perfect for any time of year, summer feels rather appropriate for a Daiquiri. The commingling of juice and oil from the limes lends itself to rather remarkable food pairings, especially Guacamole with Chips, and Shrimp Cocktail. ¡Salud!

(adapted by Cocktail Buzz)

2 ounces light rum
1/2 lime
1/2–1 tablespoon sugar (depending on how sweet you like them)

Cut the lime into wedges and add to a shaker. Sprinkle sugar on top. Muddle vigorously, extracting all the juice from the lime, allowing the sugar to dissolve. Add rum and ice. Shake for 15 seconds and strain (or double-strain if you do not want any tiny stray bits of lime pulp – although, if serving with party food, the little lime pulp bits may add flavor nuances) into a chilled cocktail glass or coupe.

Pairing Suggestions
Guacamole and Chips
Shrimp Cocktail

photo © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz