It’s a new year, so of course I want to feature some new and exciting recipes. However, after chatting with one of my besties about resolutions and goals for 2016, I decided to switch it up. Her intention for 2016 is back to the basics. Not really a resolution but more of a reminder. This resonated with me. In this crazy connected world of bigger and better, it’s important to understand and reflect on our foundations. In the culinary world, for example, people are doing seriously innovative things these days. From molecular gastronomy, foraging strange and new ingredients, to outlandish plating styles, it seems everybody is competing to invent the next big thing.
While innovation is admirable, there is a reason we have classics that have stuck around for so long, they are tried & true. So this year, my goal is to converge innovation with the concept of back to the basics. You can’t innovate if you don’t have a solid grasp on the basics.
My first recipe of 2016, Lemon Poppy Seed Shortbread Cookies, is the quintessential back to basics recipe. This simple cookie incorporates classic complimentary flavors, basic ingredients and fundamental techniques. I am excited to share this tried and true recipe with you all and start the year off on solid, trusted ground.
These Lemon Poppy Seed Shortbread Cookies are easy to make, shape and bake, especially once you understand the techniques. At their core, shortbread cookies are essentially a combination of just three ingredients. Flour, butter and sugar. This recipe uses a 4:2:1 ratio (2 cups flour, 1 cup butter, 1/2 cups sugar). I’ve drafted up detailed instructions in this recipe because I really wanted to share the fundamental steps that make this recipe a classic.
- all purpose flour - 2 cups
- poppy seeds - 2 tablespoons
- salt - 1 teaspoon
- unsalted butter at room temperature - 1 cup
- granulated sugar - 1/2 cup
- lemon - zest and juice of 1
- almond extract - 1 teaspoon
- egg - 1
- sparkling or sanding sugar - 3-4 tablespoons
- Measure your flour, poppy seeds and salt into a mixing bowl and whisk together.
- With the paddle attachment on a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar on a medium high speed for about 5 minutes, until fluffy, airy and lighter in color. Be sure to stop your mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times so you are sure to incorporate all of the sugar into the butter.
- Add the almond extract the zest and juice of one lemon and cream for about 1 minute until blended.
- With the mixer on a low stir, slowly add the dry ingredients until just incorporated. You don’t want to over-mix here, only mix until things have just come together.
- Turn out the dough onto a clean, lightly floured surface. Gently gather the dough together into a disk by gently patting, not kneading the dough, and pat to flatten the top. Once you have a round disk shape, use a knife or a bench knife to cut directly in half and set aside.
- Clean your work surface with a bench knife, then lay down a sheet of parchment paper. If you have a couple of empty paper towel rolls handy, have them available. Drop one of your dough halves on the parchment paper and use your hands to shape a rough log shape, roll into a smooth log until it is about 1 -1 1⁄2” in diameter (eyeball it to about the size of your empty paper towel roll).
- Wrap the parchment paper around your dough log, lengthwise. Then twist each end of the paper into pigtails in opposite directions (one towards you and one away from you) to form a locking mechanism. With each twist, the dough will compress and becomes smoothed out (think of it like a sausage in a casing). Roll from the center outward until you feel that you have a smooth, cylindrical log.
- Now you can get tricky (optionally) and stuff that dough log into an empty paper towel roll, it should be a snug fit but should slide in and out easily. The idea behind the paper towel roll is that your dough is going to hold it’s cylindrical shape while it chills instead of having a flat bottom.
- Repeat with second log.
- Refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour, if not 2. This allows the dough to set up and hold it’s round shape nicely when baking. You can also freeze the dough at this point. Just remember to defrost it overnight in the fridge or at room temperature for about an hour before slicing and baking.
- Preheat oven to 325°
- Whisk up egg in a small bowl to make an egg wash.
- Remove dough logs from the fridge and unroll on a cutting board. Using a pastry brush, gently brush with the egg wash on all sides. Sprinkle the sparkling sugar over the egg washed edges, all the way around the exterior, it will adhere to the dough thanks to the egg wash.
- Using a sharp knife, slice the log into 1⁄4” - 1⁄2” thick cookies. You should get about 16-18 cookies per log. Arrange them on a Silpat mat or parchment paper lined baking sheet in a 3 x 4 pattern, evenly spaced.
- Bake for 16-18 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the bake. They should come out with a golden ring around the edge and be firm to the touch with just a big of give in the center.
- Allow to cool either right on the trays or on a cooling rack.