When I saw this month’s selected recipes for Tuesdays with Dorie were these lovely little jam-filled Hungarian Shortbreads and gooey Sticky Pecan Buns made with a rich buttery dough (which will be revealed a little later this month), I may have groaned a little.
Can you believe this shortbread is actually the less buttery option? Diet, shmiet.
(Just between you and me, I’m starting to suspect that Julia secretly encouraged her contributors to shove as much butter and sugar into their recipes as possible. It’s the only explanation I can find for the downright gratuitous use of butter products in this book – I mean, these puppies are supposed to contain a whole freakin’ pound of butter! Eeesh.)
This time around, I ended up straying quite far from the original recipe. To start, I only made a half-batch of dough, since I’m trying to cut back on desserts, and baked it in a 14×4 tart pan with a removable bottom in lieu of the original 9×13.
I didn’t stop there, though. I also dropped the sugar down even further to a mere 3/4 cup since I find most shortbread recipes are too sweet for my tastes, and grated in some orange zest for added oomph. The dough was way too crumbly at first, too, so I ended up squeezing in a tablespoon or two of orange juice to get it to come together properly.
Lastly, I went in a slightly different direction with the filling. For one, it’s a little too early for fresh rhubarb ’round these parts, and two, my pantry is practically bursting at the seams with the products of last summer’s preserve-a-palooza… including, as it happens, a jar of lovely cherry-rhubarb jam that was too perfect to pass up.
(And three, I was feeling kinda lazy.)
Technique-wise, I did follow the recipe pretty much to the letter. I was slightly skeptical about grating the chilled dough into the baking dish (see above re: laziness), but I decided to give it a shot after reading a few testimonials online that swore up and down that it would create an ethereally light texture unlike any other shortbread I’d ever experience… and damned if those reviewers weren’t bang-on!
Which brings us to the cookies themselves. Holy hannah, are they ever good. The tartness of the jam offsets the buttery sweetness of the crust, which is perfectly balanced between crisp and tender. I can’t speak for the original recipe, since I made so many changes, but these are probably the most perfect shortbreads I’ve ever tasted.
Which is saying a lot, since I normally don’t even like shortbread all that much.
They’re absolutely worth every damn calorie from that half-pound of butter, though I think I’ll be saving these for special occasions. Like, say, Tuesday night.
Even though I did make quite a few changes this time around, I won’t be sharing the recipe in keeping with the TWD rules. You’ll find it on page 327 of Baking with Julia (c’mon, just buy it already… trust me, you won’t regret it), or by visiting one of the hosts for this round: Lynette at 1smallkitchen, and Cher of The not so exciting adventures of a dabbler.