Recipe: Delicious Shortbread with Strawberries and Whipped Cream

Shortbread is the food of the gods. This easy to bake, deliciously addictive, buttery and crumbly biscuit may be Scotland’s greatest vindication where cuisine is concerned. Traditional shortbread is made of nothing but awesome butter, sugar and flour and will save your ass when facing a sudden onslaught of uninvited guests. To go the extra mile, add fresh strawberries and whipped cream to make this an unforgettable dessert experience!

~ Basic Shortbread Recipe ~
(for about 30 or so biscuits)

  • 300g plain white flour
  • 200g butter (unsalted)
  • 100g white sugar
  • small pinch of salt
  • optional: some liquid vanilla extract

Add all ingredients in a bowl and knead with your bare hands until the dry crumbly mass sticks together. Roll the dough (I prefer 5-6mm for thickness but no less than 3mm) and cut into whatever shape you prefer. I’m lazy, so I do uneven squares.

Place on the baking sheet and bake for 15-20mins at 180°C. Once the biscuits start turning a dark golden around the edges, remove from the oven and leave on a cooling rack for at least 15mins.

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We already ate a few…

This is where you’re done with the basic shortbread recipe – but we’re just halfway! For divine foodgasm, slice up some fresh strawberries and give them a nice tumble with a bit of powder/icing sugar in a bowl. Next, whip up some cream until light and fluffy.

~ How to serve ~

I like to do three layers of biscuits (still slightly warm after baking) per person or serving. Use a small dessert bowl and start off with some strawberries on the bottom. Break one biscuit in half (or quarters depending on size) and then cover with a spoonful of whipped cream. Rinse and repeat until you’re satisfied with the quantity. Always finish with cream and strawberries on top.

Congratulations – you have officially entered shortbread heaven! OMNOMNOM

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Fair warning: guests will be back for more.

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Shhh…it’s a secret!

baking-ingredients-FotografiaBasica

In gaming, there’s nothing like a good secret, or seven. Sometimes, you stumble across a secret — a path you never saw before, an item that gives you special powers, or a new place to visit. Other times, secrets are revealed for the benefit of masses or handed down between generations. It’s often the same in cooking. Maybe you carry a centuries-old secret family recipe, or maybe you figured something new out last week when you attempted to spice up your boring macaroni and cheese. In this post, I’m sharing a few of my favorite food-related secrets, some that I’ve discovered through trial and error, others that came through word-of-mouth (or the Internet).

For the best lightly-sweetened, mashed sweet potatoes, try some honey.
Somewhere in the past, I stumbled across the world’s simplest recipe – honey butter sweet potatoes. Simply cook and mash sweet potatoes (or yams) and stir in a couple tablespoons each of honey and butter. But one time with this recipe, during a crazy “I must eat healthy!” moment, I eliminated the butter and used only honey. The results were surprisingly tasty! I was a little worried that the potatoes would turn out gooey or sticky, but instead they took on a silkier texture, kind of like the effect of adding cream to mashed white potatoes. But what was really great was that the honey sweetened up the potatoes just enough to really bring out their flavor. With a couple pinches of salt, they were perfect. I now always make my honey sweet potatoes around the holidays when everything else on the table is already rich and laden with calories.

Tired of bland stir-fry? Infuse your soy sauce with brown sugar and ginger.
A few weeks back, I posted a stir-fry recipe that’s in my regular meal repertoire. Well, it contains a big secret; one that I only recently discovered! Prior to making my own stir-fry sauce, I had been using the bottled “teriyaki” sauces from the grocery store. While not bad, they were always too salty and overpowering for my taste. Then a friend told me about her homemade stir-fry sauce, the main components of which were soy sauce, brown sugar, and ginger. Well, I took that idea straight to the kitchen and haven’t looked back at bottled sauces. Adding brown sugar and (ground) ginger to soy sauce gives it a great flavor that, when cooked, is reminiscent of your favorite Chinese take-out. The versatile sauce can be used over noodles and rice, vegetables and meat. And you can add all sorts of other flavors to it — garlic, onion, pepper, vinegar — depending on your taste buds. And if you think it’s too thin, a little bit of cornstarch will thicken things right up.

If you aim to make thin, chewy cookies, only use one egg in the mix. 
Despite having a decent, hands-on knowledge of cooking science, this one took me awhile to latch onto. As most of you know, eggs are a staple in baking and cooking. Not only to they add flavor and richness, but they also act as binders and as leavening agents. That last bit is important when it comes to flour-based baked goods like cookies and cakes — eggs work to help the batter rise properly as it cooks. So, generally speaking, when you make a traditional cookie recipe that uses two eggs, the cookies turn out light, puffy, and have a cakey, crumbly texture. If you eliminate one egg, thereby eliminating a leavening agent, the cookies generally turn out a little thinner, chewier, and crispier around the edges – almost like those “freshly-baked” cookies you see on TV! Of course, a lot depends on the freshness of the eggs, the temperature regulation of your oven, the batter itself, and so on, so a little experimentation may be required to get things to your liking.

What’s my powerhouse ingredient when it comes to seasoning homemade soup? Oregano!
I’d long held the notion that oregano was only for spaghetti sauce and pizza until I started making my own soup. I followed several recipes but soon ventured out on my own, particularly when it came to bean soup, a perennial favorite. The main issue I had when it came to bean soup was getting the seasoning right. While beans offer up unique flavors, just cooking them in broth wouldn’t do. Plenty of the soup recipes that I worked with included oregano as a component, but never as the main spice. Well, one day, being low on spices and with a ready pot of bean soup, I added in a good amount of dried oregano, some salt, a couple bay leaves, and some garlic powder, and let things simmer away. The results? Fantastic! The oregano gave the soup a hearty and bright aroma and lent the beans a nicely herbed flavor. I now keep loads of oregano round during the winter just for soup-making! (P. S. This goes mainly for broth-based soups, though I’m sure oregano has it’s place in cream-based soups as well.)

Want to punch up those chocolate brownies/cookies/cake pops? A little coffee goes a long way.
This is one of my favorite it’s-not-really-a-secret secrets. And I say this not just because I adore coffee, but because coffee and chocolate are simply a baking match made in heaven! Ever since discovering years ago a chocolate brownie recipe that used finely-ground coffee in the mix, I’ve been hooked on adding coffee grounds to any recipe that calls for baking cocoa. (And coffee in liquid form has it’s place too. 🙂 ) But the real secret behind using coffee in baking is getting it as finely ground as possible. Some coffee grinders do a suitable job of this — I think a mortar and pestle works even better. But however you grind up the coffee, the particulates need to be super-duper tiny in order to extract all the tasty deliciousness. And using it doesn’t make your chocolate dessert taste like coffee, it just makes it taste even more rich and chocolately!

*****

Do you have any favorite (and shareable) cooking or baking secrets?


Let’s see just how many blogs Cary can put on her roster before going mad! While you’ll find her here on occasion, you’ll more likely to catch her over on United We Game or Geek Force Network; or better yet, working on her own blog about gaming and nostalgia and such, Recollections of Play.

 

 

 

The Best Molasses Cookies in the Entire World

And when I say “entire,” I mean E-N-T-I-R-E. And I’m very serious about it. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m also serious about cookies, so this post is doubly serious! Seriously delicious!

Hahahaha! Ha..ha… …ahem…

In my neck of the woods, December is month of cookie swaps, which are really little more than an excuse to drink gin and eat cookies before dinner. Or coffee…and cookies. What did I say? Anyway, I picked up this recipe from my mother years ago. She always made molasses cookies around the holidays, and I loved every last crumb of those rich, spicy delights. Turned out that what I thought was a “secret family recipe” was, in fact, pilfered from the back of the molasses jar, with one little difference. If you happen to have Grandma’s® Molasses in your local stores, that’s where you’ll find this recipe. But, that one little difference added by my mother — coffee — sends these cookies to the moon. It’s optional, and the change in the flavor is subtle, but it’s there. Give the recipe a try with and without the coffee and see if you can taste the difference.

Or just enjoy some darn fine cookies with another glass of gin. Coffee. You know what I mean.

The Best Molasses Cookies in the Entire World

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter or shortening, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup liquid gold, er…coffee, the stronger the better (optional, but…c’mon)
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves
a couple tablespoons of white sugar in a small bowl (also optional)

Instructions
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease cookie sheet(s).
  • Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and spices into a small bowl.
  • In a large bowl, blend butter and brown sugar. Mix in egg, molasses, and coffee.
  • Stir flour mixture into wet ingredients until everything is just moistened.
  • Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes. (Dough can be made and chilled several hours in advance.)
  • Roll the dough into small balls. (Golf ball-sized dough balls will produce cookies that are about 3-4 inches across, which makes about 18-20 cookies, so judge accordingly.)
  • If you want a frosty, crispy topping on your cookies, dip the balls into the bowl of sugar, coating one side only.
  • Place dough (sugared-side up, if applicable) on sheet pans. For an extra crackly look, sprinkle a couple drops of water onto the tops of each cookie.
  • Bake for 10 minutes or until edges are slightly browned and set. (Don’t overbake!)

The cookies are great warm or cooled with gin coffee.


Let’s see just how many blogs Cary can put on her roster before going mad! While you’ll find her here on occasion, you’ll more likely to catch her over on United We Game or Geek Force Network; or better yet, working on her own blog about gaming and nostalgia and such, Recollections of Play.

I Ate This: Melt Organic

The debate between butter and margarine is as old as the pyramids. (Really! It’s in all those hierogly…okay, no it’s not.) Personally, I always have both on hand: butter for cooking and baking and margarine for spreading on toast, pancakes, waffles, and other baked delights. Both are so ubiquitous in my house that it’s hard to imagine what I’d do without them.

Only then, I had to do without them when a portion of my extended family announced they were (temporarily) giving up dairy. It took me a while to wrap my head around this very foreign concept. Making things doubly confusing was that this announcement came right before a family get-together for which I was supposed to bring dessert.

I’m willing to bet that those of us without food allergies and severe dietary restrictions probably don’t pay much attention to what’s in our food. Outside of checking packages for meat and its byproducts, I had never given any thought to just how much of what’s in the grocery store comes from or contains milk. Well, after my family’s “dairy-free age” began, I had to take notice. Lots of things immediately went off the table, such as cake and brownie mixes, chocolate chips and the like, some glazes and other confections, cream cheese, and, of course, butter and margarine. My search for non-dairy butter substitutes brought me to Melt Organic.

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Now, let me first say that Melt Organic is not, not, NOT milk-free. During a stressful round of shopping I basically went for all the “top shelf” non-dairy products in the dairy section, picked several things, and hoped for the best. Once I got everything home, I read the labels more carefully, and good thing too, because I discovered that I couldn’t use Melt. I ended up going with something else I had bought and the Melt just sat in the fridge.

But it didn’t go to waste. After completing everything I needed to for my special non-dairy dessert (whoopie pies, of all things, which were delicious and the recipe for which I’ll share at some point), I decided to start using Melt Organic as my regular margarine. It’s quite good but…different.

Melt Organic (the original “flavor” as it also comes in honey and chocolate), boasts the use of good fats (Omega-3’s and -6’s) from fruits and plants: coconut, palm, flaxseed, canola, and sunflower. And everything’s non-GMO, organic, makes the rainforests happy, etc., etc. On the outside it looks like it’s all good environmentally-speaking. On the inside is a mixture that’s very light, creamy, and spreadable. Its consistency is somewhere between glossy margarine and whipped butter that isn’t fooling anyone about being “smooth.” Not only is it easy to retrieve from the container, but it glides easily over everything from tough toast to delicate and delicious pancakes. So chalk one up to Melt’s consistency – it’s pretty darn good.

Those pancakes...d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s.

Those pancakes…d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s.

But how does it taste? Well, that’s where the “different” comes in, because it tastes like coconut. No flourishes or fanfare, just coconut. Or, that’s the most prominent flavor I get from it anyway. And I’m not talking coconut like a Mounds bar or those furry “coconut”-covered Sno-Balls. I’m talking about a subtle coconut taste that becomes quite noticeable on food without overwhelming flavors, again like toast or pancakes. On those things, plain things, sweet things, it’s delicious. But then again, I like coconut, and I think the taste pairs well with syrups, jams, and honey. The problem comes when using it for something savory. For instance, I used it to make three things for which I regularly use butter and/or margarine: garlic bread, grilled cheese sandwiches, and scrambled eggs. Each turned to be infused with hints of the flavor of coconut, with the most pronounced being the coconut-tinged garlic bread. Again, it didn’t taste like garlic bread topped with coconut shavings, it just had an odd, sweet, and nutty palette that didn’t mix well with the garlic. Not exactly what you want with your spaghetti. I’ve not yet baked with Melt, but I’m not really inclined to as I simply prefer to use real butter when baking.

So Melt Organic in my house wins with sweet but loses with savory. Because of this limitation, it’s probably not something I’d buy again as I’d rather just stick with my all-purpose margarine. Though, cost-wise, it definitely wins out over real non-dairy spreads – a 13-ounce tub me cost $2 on sale [with a coupon], with true non-dairy things costing upwards of $4-$5 for similarly-sized containers. Plus, it does have some health benefits, which is appealing when you start to look at what’s really in margarine. If you fancy trying a unique, healthy (I guess), non-butter spread and you don’t mind the taste of coconut with your marmalade, you might want to give Melt Organic a try (if you can find it on sale, maybe).


Let’s see just how many blogs Cary can put on her roster before going mad! While you’ll find her here on occasion, you’ll more likely to catch her over on United We Game or Geek Force Network; or better yet, working on her own blog about gaming and nostalgia and such, Recollections of Play.

Recipe: Chocolate Cherry Scones

Cooking is an art requiring creativity, finesse, and a certain amount of flexibility.

I am absolutely no good at any of those things.

I prefer baking: an exact, specific science of perfectly proportioned chemistry and physics. Ahh, rules to follow! My anxious, shriveled black heart smiles. ♥

One of my particular specialties is the scone, which is not, as some would like you to believe, anything whatsoever like a muffin. A muffin is a cake without enough cream, but a scone is a biscuit with pretensions of grandeur. The reason why I love scones so much is that you can make them sweet or savory (exactly like a biscuit) and put absolutely anything in them (continuing to be like a biscuit). The difference between a biscuit and a scone is that throwing out “oh, hey, I made some scones” into random conversation makes you sound like a badass. A hoity toity badass.

Also, scones are so easy. SO, SO EASY. Observe the basic ingredients for eight well-sized, delicious scones:

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Now, I’m going to be making sweet scones with dried berries, so our full ingredient list goes like this:

  • Preheat your oven to 400F (205C)
  • 2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon (3g) salt
  • 1 tablespoon (12g) baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons (30g) sugar
  • 5 tablespoons (71g) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup (240 mL) heavy cream (plus a little more for brushing)
  • 1 cup (120g) dried cherries
  • some melty chocolate for drizzling

You can put anything in there — any kind of dried berry, fresh fruit, chocolate chips, whatever. You can omit the sugar and use half a cup of bacon bits and half a cup of shredded cheese, too. Experiment! It’s awesome.

Once you’ve decided how to scone your scones, mix the flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder together in a bowl. Next, add the butter, and here is the secret to perfect pastry dough: make sure your butter is frozen. Not just cold, absolutely been sitting in the freezer all day frozen. This is because frozen butter will stay chunky and then melt while the dough is baking, creating the perfect delicious flakiness. Cold butter will melt with the friction of mixing and end up not as tasty, and warm butter is a total failure of gross. Thermodynamics, motherfuckers!

I use a food processor because I’m So Fancy, but you can also use a dough whisk on one of those kitchenaid-style mixers or, if you are seriously hardcore, kind of just press the butter into the flour mixture with a fork. You will have the buffest forearms in the world.

Here’s what your dough should look like after you get your frozen butter all chunked in:

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Don’t be concerned if it looks about the same way it did before you add the butter, just a little more coarse; that means you did it right. Yay you! Once you add the butter, add the dried fruit and mix it up a little bit. Now for the fun part: add the cream. If you’re doing this by hand, make a little inverse volcano hole in the middle to pour the cream in and squish it up that way; if you’re using a stand mixer, make sure you keep it on the lowest setting, and keep your food processor on pulse. You want to mix this up so it’s uniformly moist, but not so much that you melt all the butter or chop up all your fruit. When you’re done, your dough should look like this:

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Spread a little bit of flour on a work surface (your kitchen counter is fine, as long as it’s, you know, clean) and dump your dough on it. It’ll be crumbly and loose and you will panic, HOLY SHIT WHAT DID I FORGET TO DO, but it’s okay! It’s supposed to do that! It looks completely wrong if you’re used to things like cakes or muffins or breads, but it will end up magic, I promise.

Square up your dough into a rectangle, bending it to your will with enough force to stick it together. The dough should be about half an inch thick; press it out with your hands until the lines are straight(ish) and everything is all in one place.

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Now you can cut it into shape for baking. I do the traditional triangles because you can cut eight scones with four lines, but there’s nothing stopping you from circles or cookie cutters or little dalek shapes or whatever.

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Remember that little bit of heavy cream you set aside in the beginning? Now use a pastry brush (or your hands, if you don’t have a pastry brush) and paint the cream over the tops and edges of your unbaked scones. This will help keep the dough moist in the oven and give them a gorgeous golden-brown finished color.

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Put them in the oven for 15 minutes or until they’re golden on the edges. Use an ungreased pan for baking, but use a thin spatula (or nonstick foil) to get them off the baking pan when they’re done.

Congratulations, you’ve made delicious scones! If you want to take them to the next level, you can glaze them (or dust them with confectioner’s sugar, which is quick and easy and LOOKS SO FANCY). For these cherry scones I melted some chocolate wafers to drizzle on top, and if you, like me, have an enthusiastic weester who REALLY REALLY REALLY wants to help, now is the perfect time.

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Enjoy!


Arolaide is only allowed in Mr. Aro’s kitchen when the time comes to bake delicious treats, and likes to bribe her tiny children to behave with promises to lick the spoon when she makes cupcakes. She blogs infrequently at Dragonsworn and is one-third of Cat Context.