Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Very Vanilla Scottish Shortbread with Vanilla Icing

Ok, so this week's Holiday Recipe Exchange ingredient is Vanilla...and I LOVE vanilla! I love to use it in all kinds of things and even find myself adding it to things that don't necessarily call for it. Part of my love of it is probably due to the fact that I make my own extract and love the pure taste of just vanilla in my extract.

If you've never made extract before, my recipe is super simple... just vanilla beans and vodka. I buy a big bottle of cheap vodka (usually the plastic bottle from the superstore) and buy a bunch of vanilla beans (at least 4, usually 6 for a big bottle). Split the beans down the length, then drop them whole into the bottle of vanilla. Put in the pantry for at least 6 weeks to "cure" and then use. I leave the beans in the bottle, but after it has reached your desired strength, you can remove them if you like. Now, homemade vanilla won't be as dark as imitation because there are no added colors or flavors like in the imitation, but the flavor is beyond wonderful... But this isn't my recipe for the exchange, so just take that as a little "extra" :)

For this week's exchange I decided I wanted to highlight the flavor of vanilla in it's pure form, not just incorporate it into something that might mask it's true nature. So, what better recipe than shortbread! Little more than flour, butter and sugar, vanilla makes an excellent addition to shortbread. So for this week's recipe exchange, I present

Very Vanilla Scottish Shortbread with Vanilla Icing

1 vanilla bean
1 cup granulated sugar
1 lbs unsalted butter plus 4 tbsp divided, at room temperature
1 egg, room temperature
5 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp table salt, divided
4 tbsp milk
1 cups conectioner's sugar
red and green food coloring

For shortbread:
Preheat oven to 350F. Take vanilla bean and slit down length. Using the back of a knife, scrape the seeds (also called "caviar") out of the pod and into the work bowl of a food processor.

Cut the remaining pod into 1-2 inch pieces and reserve the for drizzle. Add 1 cup granulated sugar to food processor and pulse 10 times for 10 seconds each to combine. This will accomplish two things: first, you will incorporate the vanilla seeds into your sugar and second, you will reduce the size of the sugar granules so they will mix into the butter better. You now have a quick "vanilla sugar".

Place 1 lb of softened butter into the bowl of a stand mixer. Cream for 30 seconds, then add vanilla sugar and cream for at least 2 minutes more or until light in color and fluffy.

Blend in egg and 1/4 tsp salt, then slowly incorporate flour, beating until JUST combined. Do not overmix or your shortbread will be tough! Pat out into an 11x7 bar pan (I like my medium stoneware bar pan from Pampered Chef for this) and score into bars with a knife.

Prick with a fork (also called "docking") and place in preheated oven. Bake at 350F for 15 min then reduce temperature to 200F. and continue to bake for 1 hr.

Meanwhile, begin preparing icing.

For icing:
Put 4 tbsp of butter and milk into a small microwavable bowl. Heat until butter melts and mixture is hot. Add reserved vanilla pod pieces and allow to steep for at least 10 minutes. Remove pod pieces and discard. Whisk in confectioner's sugar. Divide into two small bowls and add red coloring to one and green to the other. Cover tightly and set aside for final step. When cookies are baked, remove from oven and allow to cool at least 10 minutes in the pan before breaking apart on score marks and moving to a cooling rack.

Do not be a sillyhead like me and rush getting them out of the pan...or you'll end up with lots of broken pieces :)

Allow to cool completely. Once cool, place a small cookie sheet or sheet pan under cookies on cooling rack to catch excess icing. Using the tines of a fork, drizzle red then green icing over cookies. Allow to dry before storing in a sealed container.

Come join the fun at the My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats Holiday Recipe Swap sponsored by Beanilla!


Ryan's Baking Blog said...

I love love love shortbread and love vanilla bean, this looks like a great combo!

Jamie said...

I adore shortbread and these look so festive! Thanks so much for submitting your creation to the My Baking Addiction and goodLife {eats} Holiday Recipe Exchange! Good luck and remember voting starts on November 21st!