Last week I was pressed for time. As I tried to figure out how to accomplish everything, I thought my Tuesdays with Dorie blogpost for May, Hungarian shortbread, would fall by the wayside. But as I worked out my Mother’s Day brunch menu, I realized it would be an ideal dessert to follow the strata and salad main course.
So far, with the exception of my first Tuesdays with Dorie adventure, my results with this baking group have been excellent. (The exception was my “not-white white bread” that was rather too heavy because I used buckwheat flour leftover from Eleanor’s savory crepes instead of sticking to all-white flour , as the recipe suggested.) The rugelach were delicious and I’m still dreaming of the citrus ginger loaf cake.
The original recipe makes a huge pan of shortbread and calls for an entire pound of butter. (Here it is, though of course, I urge you to buy the book from which it comes, Dorie Greenspan’s Baking with Julia.) With only 5 of us for brunch, I knew that a half batch would be plenty. I decided that a tart version would look nice, so I settled on my 9” tart pan as the baking mold of choice.
Although the recipe does call for a filling of homemade strawberry rhubarb preserves, it also notes that you can use any other preserves. I choose an orange marmalade from my favorite farmer’s market, spiced up with the rind and juice of a Meyer lemon and a tablespoon of my own diced, candied ginger. After mixing them together (using a bit more than the recipe called form, simply because I rarely leave well enough alone, I cooked them at a simmer for aobut 3-4 minutes before cooling the mixture and setting it aside to use as the filing once I had grated half the dough into the tart pan.
My favorite part of the recipe is a trick it taught me for keeping the dough easy to work with – freeze the dough for 30 minutes, then grate it into the pan, barely touching it with hands or a kitchen tool. Strange idea, but it works really well; the resulting shortbread is tender, but keeps its shape beautifully.
The tart pan bottom and sides separate, like the springform mold I just used for the caviar pie. But unlike the springform, the tart pan sides do not expand for easy removal. That difference hit home, as I spent a tense 10-15 minutes using a sharp knife to loosen the sides of the tart from the pan. But with patience, I eventually managed to do it and with great relief I placed the tart (with the pan bottom) onto a glass plate and dusted the top with confectioner’s sugar. You'll note below that I improvised when the edges of the tart got brown before the middle of the tart was fully cooked, using a pie shield to cover the edges while the center kept cooking.
The buttery shortbread with jam filling and a powdery white top looked lovely and tasted divine with iced tea and a bit of fruit salad on the side. The brunch was wonderful all-the-way-around and I will definitely add this recipe to my repertoire.
I’ve still got 2 pieces left, but they’ll be gone before this post goes up!