Saturday, December 04, 2010

Goldilock's Spicy Cheddar Shortbread: at last

Goldilock's Spicy Cheddar Shortbread
Cheddar Shortbread is the lazy cook's substitute for Cheese Straws. They are a snap to make if you think of them as slice-and-bake cookies, and the rolls  can live well-wrapped, unsliced, and unbaked in your freezer for up to a month. 

My first two batches were Thanksgiving appetizers, and the third time was the charm. The first were too bland; the second were too spicy. This third version for Goldilocks, is just right for me.  Feel free to adjust the cheeses, cayenne, sugar, and mustard to your taste.

Shortbread Alerts:
Too Bland & Too Spicy
  • The Cheese matters for flavor. Cheese is the front flavor, so pick what you like.  Weighing out leftover  cheese chunks on your kitchen scale will make you feel like an Alchemist.
  • The Cheese matters for color.  If you want pale shortbread, use white cheddar and fresh ground white pepper.
  • Room temperature butter matters. Cold butter can be beaten into submission by your stand mixer, but the result will be a crumbly mess that will require a lot of handwork to create the "cookie" rolls.
  • Salt matters. Do not imagine that the saltiness of your cheese will be enough salt to support the flour.
  • Sugar matters.  A small addition of sugar brings these to life.  Inexplicably, sugar is omitted from most published recipes.
  • Silpat or other silicone mats should be your gift to you.  In addition to saving the planet (no foil or parchment), these mats clean up in a minute.
Shortbread on a roll

6 oz unsalted butter at room temperature
1 T Dijon mustard
1 T sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper (fine grind)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
8 ounces finely grated cheese
2 cups flour

  1. Baking right now?  Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. With an electric mixer: beat the butter, mustard, sugar, salt, ground pepper and cayenne until smooth. 
  3. Add the cheese and flour and beat until well mixed.  You may have dry bits, which you will have to pull together by hand to shape the dough into logs.  Wrap tightly in parchment or waxed paper. Refrigerate for 1 hour or freeze for up to 1 month.
  4. Cut the logs into 1/4" slices, and place on a silicone mat.  They can be close together, but not touching.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes and begin checking for slightly darkened edges every five minutes after that.  Baking time will depend on: 
    • Whether your dough was refrigerated or frozen; 
    • Whether you use a thick and sturdy or light and flimsy sheet pan; or   
    • How true your oven temperature is on baking day.
  6. Remove from the oven and let the shortbread sit on the pan for 5 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool completely. Store airtight. Unless you live by yourself and have Mighty Willpower, these will have a very short life. People will sneak back to the buffet table and attempt to stuff them into their pockets. Make sure that there are adequate napkins to protect their pockets from shortbread crumbs.

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