You know that February is the month that I want to make every thing I cook and bake heart shaped! It was the perfect moment to make the espresso shortbreads I've been craving since Christmas time. It really wasn't that long ago since I enjoyed these delights, but it was time to get them made in cute heart shapes for all my sweet hearts!
We arrived at my family's adorable home in Ohio to my cousin taking trays and trays of cookies out of the oven. I felt almost as if I had arrived in a bakery. There were chocolate chip cookies and thumbprint cookies being baked on this day. My cousin, quite the avid baker, was taking each tray out with swift precision and ease and placing them throughout the kitchen to cool so she could add more to the oven. There were also ricotta cookies and chocolate crinkle cookies. But the cookie that I fell in love with were her espresso shortbreads! I have been told by some family members that I drink way too much espresso. Like, way too much! And I always come to my own defense explaining I only have my espresso in the morning and then one in the afternoon to pick me up a little. Don't most people drink American coffee all day long in the office?
Did you ever wonder why shortbreads are called shortbreads? Well, I did. I guess I'm a cooking/baking nerd because I like to know more about the background of dishes and their names. I'm not usually content just baking or cooking it. I like to be at a dinner party with friends and impress them with the history of the name shortbreads...don't you???
Well, anyway, this is what I found out...shortbreads were made all the way back in the 12th century and they used to be made from leftover bread dough that was sweetened and dried out. The word short means there is a lot of butter used to make them. So if you use the word short in describing biscuits or pastry, it means crumbly, because you are using loads of butter! To use eggs or not? The recipe I found recently The Chicago Tribune did have eggs. Every other recipe I've ever used or seen has not had eggs. I think either way, they are delightful! Can they truly be a shortbread if they have eggs? According to George Read’s 1854 book The complete biscuit and gingerbread baker’s assistant, they do have eggs. These are the list of shortbread ingredients from his book:1 ¼ lb. of flour, ½ lb. of sugar, ½ lb. of butter, 3 eggs, ¼ oz. of volatile salts…a little essence of lemon.
Are you shaking your head as I was wondering what in the world are volatile salts?? They were smelling salts and they were used as a leavening agent!
While many of you were locked in with massive amounts of snow last week, we got our first real cold front and all I wanted to do was bake cookies and make soups and sauces in my slow cooker. So that's what I did! Plus I love how much easier it is to work with a sugar based dough when my kitchen window right next to my counter is open and there is really cold air blowing on it. Much better than the typical hot and humid air we get here in FL. These cookies are super easy to put together. I melted a little Nutella that I had on hand and after the cookies cooled, I smeared some on and sprinkled on some Maldon salt to make it sparkly and pretty. You could skip the Nutella part (but why would you??)and you could sprinkle on some colorful sprinkles or turbinado sugar if you don't have the salt. Valentine's is right around the corner...bake these for your sweethearts!!
Prep Time: 10 minutes (plus 30-60 minutes
Cook Time: 13-18 minutes
Ingredients (4 dozen cookies)
- 8 oz. (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
- 1/2 tsp. table salt
- 2 Tbs. espresso (or coffee or tea decaf or regular)
- 10 oz. (2-1/4 cups) all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
In a small bowl, add the cocoa powder to the flour by whisking it together; set aside. Using a paddle attachment on your mixer on low speed, beat the butter and confectioner's sugar until smooth, about 1-2 minutes, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl as needed. Add in the espresso, vanilla, and salt and beat until combined.
Add the flour/cocoa powder mixture and mix on low speed until combined (about 3 minutes), making sure not to overmix the dough.
Dump the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and flatten into a disk. Chill for 30-60 minutes (or until the dough is firm enough to work with).
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to about 1/4 inch thick. Make sure you're rolling it on evenly so the cookies will bake evenly.
Using a heart or other shape cookie cutter, cut out shapes as close to one another as possible. Use the scraps to roll out and cut more cookie shapes. Chill dough a little bit more if it becomes sticky. Arrange the cookies on two parchment-lined baking sheets and refrigerate until chilled, at least 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Bake the cookies until golden on the bottom and edges and pale to golden on top, 13-18 minutes.
Cool and spread on some melted chocolate or Nutella. Add Maldon salt or sprinkles.