Saturday, November 20, 2010

Give Thanks for Shortbread and Cranberries

As Thanksgiving rolls around, I've been racking my brain, my books, and my Google--well, I guess it's not really my Google, is it?--for some brilliance and deliciousness. There are plenty of great recipes circulating around, but I wanted something that was easy, cheap, and didn't require me buying many things that I don't already have. Enter cranberry shortbread.

I found this simple, cheap, and yummy-looking recipe--which is originally from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours--on "Singleton in the Kitchen" and decided to give it a go. Literally the only thing I had to buy this grocery run was a bag of cranberries, which only ran me up $1.99. ...And it's healthy, right? I mean, there is fruit in it!

I really made only a few modifications to Singleton's recipe. I did not have an orange, so I used a lime instead, which I think added a nice complementary zing to the cranberries. I used about 1 cup (rather than 3/4 cup) of sugar, since she said people commented that hers was too tart. And I added cinnamon to the shortbread recipe, because I figured, "Hey, it's Thanksgiving. Why not?"

I hope you enjoy this around your Thanksgiving table as much as I have on my typical work potluck table.



For the Jam Filling:
1 large navel orange - I subbed 1 lime ($0.20)
about 1/4 cup of orange juice ($1.50)
1 12-ounce bag cranberries, fresh or frozen (not thawed) ($1.99)
About 1 cup sugar ($1.99)

For the Cake:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour ($1.99)
1 teaspoon baking powder ($1.39)
Pinch of salt
1 stick plus 5 tablespoons (13 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature ($1)
1 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar  (see sugar above)
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk ($1.49 for a dozen, $0.12 for 1)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract ($4.79 for a large bottle - could be free if you have it)
Optional: cinnamon (I added this; wasn't in the original recipe)

The Grand Total: $15.09 - but since most of this should be stuff you already have, it will probably be way less! All I had to buy are the cranberries.


To Make the Jam Filling:
Grate the zest of an orange into a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Slice off the peel, removing the white, cottony pith that sticks to the fruit, and slice between the membranes to release the orange segments. Cut the segments into 1/4-inch wide pieces and toss these into the pan. Working over a measuring cup, squeeze the juice from the membranes -- if you have 1/4 cup, great; if not, add enough additional orange juice (or water) to make 1/4 cup -- and pour it into the pan. 

Put the cranberries in the pan, stir in 3/4 cup of sugar, set the pan over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook, stirring almost constantly, until the cranberries pop and your spoon leaves tracks, about 5 minutes. Scrape the jam into a bowl and taste it -- if it's too tart, add more sugar to taste. Cool to room temperature. (The filling can be made up to 2 weeks ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.)

To Make the Cake: 

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. 

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl (or a fork, if you're as low maintenance as I am), beat the butter on medium speed until soft and smooth. Add 1 cup of sugar and continue to beat until it dissolves into the butter. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the egg and egg yolk and, beating until they too are absorbed. Beat in the vanilla.

Add the flour mixture, mixing only until it is incorporated; since this is a delicate dough, one that should not be over beaten, you might want to finish mixing in the flour by hand using a sturdy spatula. You'll have a thick dough, one that is quite malleable. 

Turn the dough out onto a smooth surface and gather it together in a ball, then divide in half and pat each half into a disk. Wrap the disks in plastic and refrigerate them for 15 to 30 minutes. (At this point, the dough can be refrigerated overnight; set it out at room temperature for about 20 minutes before proceeding.)

Getting Ready to Bake:
While the dough is chilling, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a 9-inch springform pan (preferably nonstick) and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat. 

Work with one piece of dough at a time. For the bottom layer, either roll out the dough to size between two pieces of plastic wrap -- it's an easy enough dough to roll -- and lay it in the pan, or put the dough in the pan and press it lightly and evenly across the bottom with your fingertips. Spread the cranberry filling over the dough.

Unwrap the second piece of dough, but leave it on the plastic. Press and/or roll it until it is just the diameter of the pan. Carefully lift the dough and invert it on the filling, lift off the plastic and use your fingers to even it as necessary so that it covers the filling. Brush the top of the cake very lightly with water and sprinkle with the remaining 2 teaspoons of sugar.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top of the cake is lightly golden and a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and cool for about 20 minutes, then run a blunt knife around the cake, remove the sides of the pan and let cool to room temperature.

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