Friday, April 17, 2015

Orange Scented Shortbread

A new find, a bottle of Orange Peel from Penzys Spices, was the inspiration that led me to create this delicious shortbread that I think I made even better with a dip in dark Belgian chocolate.

I found the unusual product on a shopping trip with my dear friend Pam who was visiting from Seattle. We were heading towards Powell's Bookstore when we walked by the shop on NW 10th Avenue and I suggested we go inside. 

Penzys is a company I want to support not only because it sells the best tasting and freshest spices, but because it's been very generous to The Wednesday Community Meal. In the past they've given us cases of black pepper, chicken stock, ham stock and beef stock — staples we need and use regularly at our meal.

At the store, there was a sample of the Orange Peel that I smelled and was immediately blown away. The orange scent was so strong and so fresh that I knew it was a product I wanted to try and use and that's how this shortbread came about. 

Before I added the peel to my shortbread dough, I re-hydrated it by soaking it in a tablespoon of vanilla. The smell of this vanilla orange combination was intoxicating, reminding me of the scent of a Creamsicle or Orange Julius. Why can't anyone make perfume that smells this good?

Here's the recipe:

Orange Scented Shortbread
(makes about 6 dozen)
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 1/2 teaspoons Penzys Orange Peel (Note: If this product isn't available, you can use 5 teaspoons of finely grated orange zest.)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar, optional (for rolling the cookies in before baking)

In a small container, combine the orange peel with the vanilla and let this set for about 10 minutes.

Mix the orange peel in the vanilla and set it aside for a bit.

The peel will soak up the vanilla and it will look like this.
Cream together the butter, vanilla/orange mixture, sea salt and sugar until smooth and creamy.  Add the flour and mix just until combined.
The mixed dough.
Divide the dough into thirds. Wrap each third in a piece of plastic wrap and roll into a log about 1.5 inches in diameter. If you are having trouble shaping the logs, just do your best and then let the dough chill for 30 minutes to firm up — then re-roll and re-shape the logs. Let the logs chill for at least 2 hours before slicing.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. If desired, roll the logs in raw sugar (I do this extra step because I like the crunch and look that the sugar gives the cookies), and cut 1/4-inch thick rounds from the logs. Then cut the rounds in half.
Cutting the cookies.

Ready for the oven!

Place the cookies on parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving about 2-inches of space between them. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until the cookies are golden on the edges and set. Let the cookies cool completely before dipping.

Dipping the Cookies:
10 oz. dark chocolate, divided (I like Callebaut brand Belgian chocolate best)

First off, have your cookies at hand, ready to dip and a counter or sheetpans lined with parchement paper before you prepare the chocolate. You have to have a place to set your cookies after dipping.

Place 8 oz. of the chocolate in a small microwave safe bowl. You need to use a bowl that adequately holds the chocolate but is small enough so that the chocolate isn't too spread out. You need depth for the dipping.

Microwave the chocolate in intervals of 30 seconds, stirring after each until the chocolate is thoroughly melted. Immediately add the remaining 2 oz. of chocolate and stir until it's also thoroughly melted. This is called the seeding method and is a simple way to temper the chocolate.

Dip a cookie about 1/4 into the melted chocolate and give it a gentle shake to remove any excess. Place the cookie on parchment and keep working quickly until all the cookies have been dipped. Leave the cookies on the parchment until the chocolate is completely set.

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