Apples for Jam - Jam Shortbread
I'll admit I was seduced by the drizzle of jam seeping out from between the layers of shortbread in Tessa Kiros's photograph of this recipe from her book "Apples for Jam." Any jam will work here, and you can add a thinner or thicker layer to suit your taste. I wish I had gone for thicker, rather than just kind of moistening the shortbread, which is what I did. Raspberry is always my favorite flavor, and a seedless raspberry from artisan jam producer Wilkin & Sons was pretty much perfect, even if I wasn't greedy enough while spreading. I have to admit, though, that I wish I hadn't been too lazy to go down to the farmer's market this morning to get the jam from Berkshire Berries. Their Dandelion Jelly, although not ideal for this recipe because of its subtle taste, is wonderful.
In her book "English Food," resident expert Jane Grigson attributes the scottish shortbread's unique blend of "richness and crispness and lightness" to a combination of both all-purpose flour and either corn flour or rice flour. I decided not to mess with Kiros's recipe the first time around, but another element added to the short bread might make the cookies sing a bit more. Or perhaps I just really needed more jam! I also wonder if a bit of salt might have made a difference. Although neither Grigson nor Kiros call for it, Grigson does specify salted Danish butter for her Viennese shortcake, a slight twist on the basic shortbread recipe that she says used to be "a favorite of English teatables."
Kiros specifies a 12x16" pan, but the closest I got was my smaller-sized jelly roll pan. I had some trouble rolling out the dough, and can't imagine that it can actually be stretched to fill a 12x16" pan in two layers. Mine ended up being much smaller, and the top layer (now the bottom!) had to be patched on. Regardless of aesthetics, when I get lucky enough to find a bite hiding a nice pocket of jam, they are wonderful. The dog bone is the only cookie cutter I have, which makes them look more kitsch than rustic. But that's okay, a little kitsch never hurt anyone!
7 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg, lightly beaten
A few drops of vanilla extract
2/3 cup of your favorite jam, more or less
Oven preheated to 325. You're going to want to line your pan (Kiros suggests 12x16" but I found this to be a stretch, literally) in order to pull the cookies out easily for cutting. Work the butter and sugar by hand until they are well combined, then add the four and baking powder. Continue working all of the ingredients together, the batter will be quite crumbly. Finally add the egg and the vanilla and kneed the dough until it holds together in a smooth ball. Refrigerate your ball of cookie dough, wrapped in cellophane, for at least :30, or until cold and firm enough to be rolled out.
Lightly flour your working surface and roll half of the dough out to fit your pan. Spread the jam on this first half, and then roll the second half out to fit over the first. It helps to have brought the jam to room temperature for easier spreading. Bake for around 12 minutes to beginning to grown in places, especially around the edges. Mine never got overly brown. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then lift out the paper and start cutting. Cool the cookies on wracks, eat the scraps.