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  • I have indeed had a life long love of shortbread cookies as the number of variations of this all time favourite on Rock Recipes can pay witness. I’ve often said that sometimes simple is best and that is particularly true in the case of shortbread cookies. With their tender, crisp, crumbly texture and buttery sweet flavour, they need nothing more to make them totally satisfying, except maybe a cup of hot tea. I was quite partial to a tall glass of cold milk with these as a child and still am on occasion. During the Holidays, all the women in our extended family and friends made shortbread cookies as part of their Christmas baking routine. Some kids gravitated to other more decadent cookies in the Christmas offerings but I always enjoyed eating around the bright red cherry or sometimes gumdrop at the center of a shortbread cookie and saving the sweet morsel in the middle as the final bite. This recipe is a slight variation in method on Nanny Mildred Ralph’s recipe, who was my Uncle Bill’s Mom, and a great baker like so many Newfoundland women of her generation. I’ve added a little real vanilla to the dough for additional flavour and glacé cherries to the center instead of maraschinos as she did. You can use whichever you like or substitute baking gums as I just mentioned. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without some Holiday Shortbread Cookies. Prep time 20 mins Cook time 20 mins Total time 40 mins Ingredients 2 cups butter (1 pound) at room temperature 1 cup icing sugar (powdered sugar) 2 tsp vanilla extract ½ cup corn starch 3 cups flour Maraschino cherries or baking gums for the centers (optional). Instructions Cream together the butter and icing sugar very well until very smooth and creamy. No lumps of butter should be visible. Blend in the vanilla extract. Sift together the flour and corn starch. Blend slowly into the creamed mixture until a soft dough forms. Split dough into 2 equal round portions. Wrap the dough rounds in plastic wrap and chill for a couple of hours at least. You can freeze one of the cookie dough portions for later if you like. This dough will also last in the fridge for 3-4 days so that you can bake a few up at a time and enjoy them fresh from the oven if you like. To bake the cookies preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Roll the dough out to a little less than ¼ of an inch on a lightly floured surface. Use a 2 inch cookie cutter (or holiday shaped cookie cutters) to cut out the cookies. Place the cookies on the parchment paper a half inch apart. Add a half maraschino or glacé cherry to the center, or a baking gumdrop if you like. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until they just start to turn brown at the edges. Let cool for 10 minutes on the pan before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container. These cookies will freeze quite well for several weeks.

    10 Jan
    10 Jan
  • Perfectly golden little cheese puffs are always the most inviting thing on a Holiday entertaining platter for me. I’m always immediately drawn to them as the first thing I try at any seasonal party and I know from experience that they are always the first item to disappear at my own get-togethers. Perhaps it’s the curiosity of what’s held inside these delectable little party bites that’s to blame; after all, the possibilities are practically endless. Many people may never have made the French classic choux pastry which forms the shell of these hors d’oeuvres, but as someone who has made it since I was about 12 years old, I can tell you there’s nothing intimidating about it at all. With only 4 common ingredients, water, butter, flour and the fresh eggs that provide all the lift necessary in these light and airy pastries, really, how complicated can they be? Getting the timing and temperatures right ensures success. No, that is not a typo, it is temperatures, plural. The initial baking temperature for choux pastry puffs should always be higher, whether you’re making eclairs, profiteroles or these cheese puffs. The higher temperature quickly heats up the choux pastry batter and begins to rapidly create the steam inside that helps the eggs lift the pastry. Once they’ve expanded completely, it’s then that the temperature gets decreased so that the puffs can stay in the oven as long as possible to create that golden color and a solid exterior shell that does not collapse. When people ask me how long to leave them in after the heat gets reduced, my answer always is, “As long as you dare.” If the bottoms are not getting too brown, leave them for the maximum time you can. This strengthens the outside shell and ensures that the puffs do not collapse when they come out of the oven. Honestly, I bake my puffs by color and not by timing for the most part. Two tips here are to always use aluminum baking sheets, and always use parchment paper. Aluminum pans buffer direct heat better than other metals or alloys used for baking sheets. Simply put, they are far less likely to overheat and burn the bottom of your puffs before the top portion is completely baked. Parchment paper is an essential in practically all my baking but it is particularly useful here. It does provide a little additional heat buffer but there is the added bonus of not having to grease the pan. Fat on the pan can conduct heat very quickly too, so eliminating that risk is a bonus. One guideline never to ignore, like in Yorkshire pudding which also gets its lift from fresh eggs, is DON”T OPEN THAT DOOR! Well, at least not until the very last couple of minutes of baking. Most especially in the initial rising and baking, constant temperature with no fluctuations is essential. Resist the urge to take a peek at them. Versatile fillings. The basic cheese filling recipe here can be used with a myriad of variations. Instead of roasted garlic and thyme, I’ve sometimes used a little finely chopped smoked salmon and dill or roasted garlic and mixed herbs. Finely chopped sun dried tomatoes with fresh chopped oregano is also a great variation. Let your taste and imagination conjure up your own favourite version of these popular little Holiday party bites that you just know your guests are going to love. Prep time 20 mins Total time 1 hour 20 mins Ingredients For the choux pastry shells 1½ cups water ¾ cup salted butter 1½ cups flour 6…

    10 Jan
    10 Jan
  • Christmas baking season is in full swing again and although it has been an incredibly busy couple of months around here, I’m still managing to get a few things ready for the Christmas freezer like these simple but delicious, Toasted Coconut Shortbread Cookies. Yesterday afternoon I visited my former work colleagues in the Registrar’s Office at Memorial University for sort of a “private” book signing of my new cookbook. My friend Nancy who works there, helped to organize the visit so that all my old friends from the office could bring in their personal copies of the cookbook and those that they had purchased for gifts, to have them signed. Nancy is a little coconut crazed. She loves anything with coconut so I decided to bring along some treats for the office crew and had Nancy specifically in mind when I had the idea to add toasted coconut to my simple, old fashioned shortbread cookie recipe. They definitely got Nancy’s seal of approval and satisfied all my simple but delicious shortbread criteria too. If you’re a coconut lover or a shortbread lover or both, these are bound to make a great addition to your Christmas cookie list for the freezer or to enjoy at any time of the year.As the many recipes for Shortbread that have appeared on Rock Recipes can attest, it is something that I’ve had a bit of a love affair with since I was a child. That love was always particularly evident at the Christmas season when every year, my mother, grandmothers and aunts would all make these completely uncomplicated but completely delicious cookies adorned simply but festively, with half a glacé cherry in the center. As a kid, I’d eat all the way around that cherry, saving the sweet center for last….okay, so I still do. Toasted Coconut Shortbread Cookies Prep time 20 mins Cook time 20 mins Total time 40 mins Ingredients 2 cups butter (1 pound) at room temperature 1 cup icing sugar (powdered sugar) 1 tsp vanilla extract 1 tsp coconut extract ½ cup corn starch 3 cups flour 2 cups dried fine cut coconut, lightly toasted Instructions Toast the coconut in a preheated 350 degree F oven and let it cool completely before using it in the recipe. Toast the coconut by spreading it in a 9×13 baking pan and baking for 10-15 minutes or so. Stir it and spread evenly again after the half way point 5-7 minutes. Cream together the butter and icing sugar very well until very smooth and creamy. No lumps of butter should be visible. Blend in the vanilla and coconut extracts. Sift together the flour and corn starch. Blend slowly into the creamed mixture until a soft dough forms. Blend the coconut through the dough. Split dough into 2 equal portions and roll each one into a log shape about 1½ to 2 inches in diameter. Wrap the dough logs in plastic wrap and chill for a couple of hours at least. You can freeze one of the cookie dough portions for later if you like. This dough will also last in the fridge for 3-4 days so that you can bake a few up at a time and enjoy them fresh from the oven if you like. To bake the cookies preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Using a very sharp knife, cut slices of the dough to about ¼ inch (6 mm) thickness or perhaps a tad less. Place the cookies on the parchment paper a half inch apart and bake for 15-20 minutes or…

    10 Jan
    10 Jan
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    07 Jan
    07 Jan

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