I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. Besides my weakness for chocolate, I really could do without all other sweets.
Except at Christmas. At Christmas, there is Egg Nog and shortbread. Together or separately; I love them both.
And this year, thanks to Gay Lea, I have a couple new shortbread recipes to try: Mulled Cider Shortbread Bars and Sweet and Salty Shortbread Mounds.
Unfortunately, time has not been kind to me on the cusp of this holiday season, which has left me with no opportunity to prepare and sample these delectable new desserts.
However, Gay Lea has been kind enough to provide me with some expert tips for baking this holiday season that have both encouraged and excited me, forcing me to schedule time in the coming weeks to do my Christmas baking.
Here are a few of their tips. In the ingredients category, they suggest the following:
- 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.
For tools, they recommend bakers use the following:
- 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.
And the point that encouraged me the most:
“Shortbread bars and cookies are very easy to make and most bakers will have the necessary ingredients on hand,” continues Snider-Whitson. “Using a superior quality butter, like Gay Lea, will ensure the ultimate taste and texture of all your holiday baking.”
One of the things that drives me nuts at this busy time of year, is choosing a recipe because it looks and sounds delicious only to discover that the ingredients are not common and therefore not part of my pantry staples or readily available at my local grocery store. The fact that the ingredients for shortbread bars and cookies are likely already in my house makes it very easy for me to whip up a batch of shortbreads the moment that time allows.
Now, let me tempt your taste buds with pictures of these two new recipes that I can’t wait to try:
In case you’d like to take pity on me and make these delicious treats to send to me (JK—I’ll find some time to fit them in), here are the recipes provided by Gay Lea:
Sweet and Salty Shortbread Mounds
Courtesy Gay Lea Foods Co-operative Ltd.
1 cup/250 mL softened Gay Lea Unsalted Butter
1 cup/250 mL instant dissolving sugar
1/2 cup/125 mL smooth peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups/550 mL all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp/2 mL salt
1/2 cup/125 mL crumbled, salted pretzel sticks
1/2 cup/125 mL chopped, salted roasted peanuts
¾/175 mL cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 tbsp/45 mL Gay Lea Unsalted Butter
1/15 mL tbsp corn syrup
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.
- Make-ahead: Store the baked cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 1 month.
- Tasty Toppings: Change up these indulgent cookies by topping the chocolate layer with a variety of yummy garnishes such as a drizzle of caramel sauce or melted white chocolate or a sprinkle of coarse or flaked sea salt.
Mulled Cider Shortbread Bars
2 cups all-purpose flour 500 mL
¾ cup cold Gay Lea Unsalted Butter, cut into cubes 175 mL
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.
Makes 32 bars
- Make-ahead: Transfer the bars to an airtight container and store, in the refrigerator, for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.
- Ingredient Source: If apple cider isn’t available at the supermarket, use any cold pressed apple juice available. Or, try purchasing a cup of fresh cider from a local coffee house. (<<< I love this tip since the recipe doesn’t call for a lot of cider and it’s not something I want hanging around my house (not a big fan, although I’m sure these bars are delicious!)