Saturday, March 12, 2011

Scottishness and savory scones

I was on a Scottish jag last week- listening to Scottish folk songs, reading a great travel writing book about Scotland, rereading a romance that takes place in the Scottish Highlands, and finally, making Scottish shortbread.
So, to the shortbread. [Unless you're interested in the links above? Let me know :-)]

The recipe I used was for Sharp Cheddar Scottish Shortbread from Jana at Cherry Tea Cakes, a fellow DC food blogger who has some very entertaining stories and a lot of energy to devote to cooking up fabulous creations. I ended up at this recipe (you do know that I search and search, looking for the exact right fit for my mood, right?) because I had the task of making something for book club that 1) was savory, since others claimed they would bring sweets, and 2) was Scottish or Indian, since those were the two ethnic backgrounds tapped into for the book we had read, Arthur & George, by Julian Barnes. (It was a very interesting book, and I can't spoil the ending, but I learned a lot about British history reading it.) By the way, I ended up not needing to find a savory recipe, as 3 people cancelled on the day of due to RAIN. It's rain, people. Unless you are this creature, you should not let it deter you.

Anyway, the biscuits, while being quite fragile, were very tasty. I mean, how can you go wrong with cheese and butter, right? They were really crumbly before baking, which is why I had to abandon any hope of rolling out and go for slice-a-log approach, and they were very crumbly after baking, since I had to slide them warm into plastic bags and slog through the rain to Grandmother's Elyse's house in Columbia Heights. But they were still delicious!

Feel free to assail me with recommendations on how to improve that crumbly-ness. :-)

Lesher Scottish Shortbread (adapted from Sharp Cheddar Scottish Shortbread by Cherry Tea Cakes)

1/2 cup salted butter (left out to reach room temperature)
good pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
7 ounces Lesher cheese, grated
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

Using electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment good old elbow grease, beat together softened butter, salt, black pepper, and cayenne until blended (take as many breaks as your arms need- and switch arms for coordination skillz!). Add cheese and flour and mash some more until it looks like it could almost be called a dough. Press dough into disk (wet a little with a tsp of water if needed to stick together), wrap in plastic wrap and chill for half an hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

On lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4-inch-thick round. Using 1 1/2 round cutter, cut out rounds and arrange 1 1/2 inches apart on baking sheets. Mold dough into a long block, as if you are a sushi chef. Try for a squarish log of about 12 inches. Slice off to form shortbread squares and place on papered pans.

Bake until lightly golden and beginning to brown on edges, about 9 to 11 minutes, turning once. Cool on sheets.

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