In November, the Boston Globe Magazine ran an article called Holiday Cookie Extravaganza by Lisa Zwirn the author of Christmas Cookies: 50 Recipes to Treasure for the Holiday Season. As I read through the article, I found a few cookies I wanted to try. The one that caught my eye was the Syrian Shortbread Thumbprints. My problem was I make so many cookies at Christmas and I didn't want to add any new ones, plus I already had a really good brown sugar thumbprint recipe. But, it intrigued me.
I decided to hold a thumbprint bake-off. I'd make this recipe of thumbprints and let my co-workers decide which they liked better...mine or Sofra Bakery. Sofra's recipe was a little more work than mine but I have to admit, they were delicious, very light and buttery. The shortbread was delicate, sweet and crunchy.
When I arrived that Monday, my co-workers were each given a cookie to try. The results were interesting. They liked both cookies but had very different reasons for why they chose their favorite. Some liked the delicateness of Sofra's or the denseness of mine. Some liked the white shortbread to the brown shortbread and in the end, it was a tie. If you're looking to have some fun with friends and family, try making both recipes and have your own bake-off. I'd love to know the results.
1 cup clarified unsalted butter (see recipe below)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
Raspberry or other jam
In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together the clarified butter and sugar. Refrigerate until firm, at least 45 minutes.
Beat the chilled butter and sugar mixture in the same bowl for 4 to 5 minutes or until very light and fluffy. Mix in the flour and salt until smooth. Use a rubber spatula to form the dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes to firm slightly. (If chilled longer, it will need to sit at room temperature for an hour or 2 to soften for shaping.)
Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. Once dough is chilled, pinch off tablespoon-sized pieces and roll into 1-inch balls, placing them about 2 inches apart on the prepared sheet. Make a small but fairly deep indentation using the rounded end of a wooden spoon or your thumb. Chill the cookies for at least 30 minutes to firm.
Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Fill the indentations with about ¼ teaspoon of jam each. Bake for 23 minutes or until the cookies are just slightly pale golden. Carefully slide the parchment paper, with the cookies on it, off the cookie sheet and onto a wire rack. Cool the cookies completely before removing from the parchment paper. (Crumbs will stick to your fingers unless the cookies are thoroughly cooled.) Store the cookies, layered between sheets of wax paper, in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
To clarify butter in the microwave: In a microwave-safe bowl, melt ¾ pound (3 sticks) of unsalted butter on high, uncovered, for about 2 minutes or until the milk solids have separated from the butterfat. Do not stir. Skim off the white foam on top, then slowly strain the clarified (clear yellow) butter into a measuring cup, leaving behind the milk solids.
To clarify butter on the stove top: Melt ¾ pound (3 sticks) of unsalted butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. After the butter melts, it will bubble wildly for a few minutes while the water in the butter evaporates. Do not stir. When the bubbling lessens, the butterfat will be clear yellow. Strain the clarified (clear yellow) butter into a measuring cup, leaving behind the milk solids.
Store clarified butter in a jar in the refrigerator or freezer.