Not long before I went on vacation, I chanced upon Claire Clark's Indulge: 100 Perfect Desserts on the library's new arrival shelf. I was immediately attracted by the luscious chocolate cake on the cover and had to add it to my avalanche of checkout books.
It was only after reading the foreword, by the much celebrated and revered chef, which also happens to be Clark's employer, Chef Thomas Keller, had I known that Claire Clark is the pastry chef of the extraordinary, award winning, and the best restaurant in the United State- French Laundry.I am so ignorant!
Flipping through the brilliantly written book have me craving to conquer each and everyone one of the gorgeous creations in my tiny kitchen. I wanted to make the Red Wine and Chocolate Cake, Green tea Tiramisu, Rich chocolate ganache tart with salted caramel and candied peanuts, Opera and basically all the rest of the recipes.
But there's a technical problem. All the recipes in the book are written in weight measurement. Clark explains that it is the most accurate way to measure and I couldn't agree more. But an accurate weighing scale is one of the appliance that my tiny kitchen lacks. I was going to buy one months ago, but was promptly distracted to make other purchases and totally forgot about the scale!
With that, all the ambitious attempts have to put on a hold. But I hate to return the book without making a recipe from it. Especially a great book like this. So, I make the first recipe on the book- the Shortbread, which according to Chef Thomas Keller, is what he craves upon returning the restaurant from a trip.
An endorsement like that is undoubtedly assuring. I did a not-too-accurate weght to cup conversion of the recipe and proceeded gingerly. The Shortbread recipe from Clark's mum is simple yet wonderful. As I rubbed the butter with my fingertips into the dry ingredients, my hands were perfumed with the sweet scene of vanilla beans, an aromatic yet satisfying process. All one needs to make the shortbread is just a mixing bowl, a pair of willing hands and a weighing scale (or measuring cups in my case). I am once again reminded that my hands are my most adaptable and flexible tool I have.
The Shortbread was nice when it was fresh from the oven, but I am happy to report that it tasted better after 1 to 2 days of sitting. That is definitely a desirable property in my book. The Shortbread is indeed indulgence in its simplest form.
I packed half of the shortbread with the cookies bag my friend- Happy Home Baking sent me. I wish I could send the cookies to her, but I doubt the delicate shortbread could make it to Singapore un-crumbled. So, they were given to a friend who dropped by my place one night.
adapted from Indulge: 100 Perfect Desserts
225g/8 oz all purpose flour
75g/2 3/4 oz confectioners' sugar
1 vanilla pod
150g/ 5 1/2 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
50g/1 3/4oz granulated sugar , for dusting
(my not very accurate ingredient list in cup measurement)
1 3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
1 vanilla pod
11 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
granulated sugar , for dusting
Preheat the oven to 350F. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the confectioners' sugar. Using a sharp knife, slit the vanilla pod open lengthways and scrape out the seeds with the tip of the knife. Add the seeds to the bowl, along with the butter. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the dry ingredient. As the mixture begins to come together, use your hands to help it form a dough (alternatively, you could use an electric mixer with the paddle attachment on a low speed to make the dough.)
Shape the dough into a ball and flatten it slightly. Roll out on a lightly floured surface to about 1cm/1/2 inch thick. Cut into 15 oblongs and place them on abaking sheet lined with baking parchment.
Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the baking sheet around and continue baking for 10 minutes, until the shortbread is golden brown. Remove from the oven and dust with an even coating of granulated sugar. Leave on the baking sheet to cool.
Make 15-16 shortbread fingers.