Thursday, November 24, 2011

Cayenne Shortbread: a kickstarter appetizer

Cayenne & Chili Shortbread
The challenge for a Thanksgiving appetizer is to bring a big flavor but not to be an appetite-killer. Cayenne Shortbread fills the bill.

Truth in recipe writing: this shortbread has two kinds of chili, cayenne and red (Ancho preferred) and might also be called Double-Chili Shortbread.

Shortbread has an undeserved reputation for being fussy, requiring cutting and rolling, and obsessive pursuit of symmetry. Not so. It can be treated like a refrigerator cookie, giving it many of the characteristics of the Easy Peasy Food Group:


  1. easy to mix from pantry ingredients (sugar, salt, vanilla, flour, spices);
  2. simple to roll into logs for the freezer;
  3. can be baked frozen if your knife can cut the fully-frozen log; and
  4. can look "rustic," as perfection (perfectly round, obsessively even in height, exactly the same color) is not required.
Cayenne Shortbread 

3/4 pound unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 to 1 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp red chili powder (Ancho, not the stuff you put into a pot of chili)
1/2 tsp salt
3-1/2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
  1. Cream the butter, sugar, vanilla, cayenne, chili, and salt for five minutes in a stand mixer.
  2. With the mixer on low, add the flour half a cup at a time. When all of the flour has been added, turn up the speed for about 10 seconds to incorporate as much flour as possible. 
  3. Dump the mixture onto a board or a silicone mat. If you have some dry ingredients that weren't completely mixed in, knead the dough for a minute or two and then roll into logs that are between 1-1/2 and 2 inches in diameter. Six-inch logs are easy to handle, but don't fret about the log's length. They will be cut into cookies.
  4. Wrap the logs in plastic and freeze for at least an hour.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 350.
  6. When the logs are soft enough for your knife, cut the logs into cookies that are (more or less) 1/4 inch wide. 
  7. Place on parchment or on a silicone mat on a cookie sheet or rimmed baking sheet turned upside down. Bake for  between 20 and 25 minutes. Check them at 20 minutes.
  • Dry into wet? Usually dry ingredients like spices and salt are sifted with flour. "Why," I asked, "couldn't I add them to the creamed butter and sugar to give them a head start at mixing?" As the Boss of My Kitchen, I did it, and it worked out fine.
  • Uniform sizing? True, the more even they are sized, the more uniform they will look when fully baked. No fretting required, however, because these are forgiving and are delicious anywhere from pale yellow to light brown. Anyone who complains that they are not uniformly round, should be immediately assigned to wash all of the dishes.

1 comment:

Liz said...

I made these around Thanksgiving and cooked off some but they seemed a little sweet for an appetizer and a bit too peppery for a cookie tray. A couple of rolls remained in my freezer just waiting for the right moment. A New year's eve party is perfect. I cooked them thin at 325, just the thing to go with a nice bottle of champers.