Lemon-Rose Shortbread Cookies
(Note: I am working on my Cooking For People Who Don't technique. This recipe is (hopefully) written so that a person who has never cooked could use it, even though it is primarily for skud
, who actually cooks better than I do. People of all skill levels are entreated to let me know how the style works for them.)
About 90 -120 minutes of work, depending on cookie size, spread over three - four hours of time.
Makes about 3 dozen large or 7 dozen tiny cookies, depending on thickness. Thinner cookies are crisper, but tend to have a higher icing:cookie ratio; I advise thinning the icing to suit (dip one or two cookies and see what you think).
Requires no exotic equipment or ingredients except the rosewater, which can be found at most Indian groceries; everything else can be gotten at a Western grocery store. Can be successfully made by a careful absolute beginner. Does require some arm strength for mixing and rolling a fairly stiff dough. Can be made sitting down. Does not require significant lifting or great physical precision. Rarely if ever fails: is not sensitive to drafts, humidity, room temperature, things getting dropped near the oven, etc. Can be doubled or halved easily.
1 large mixing bowl,
two cereal bowls,
cookie cutters or a water glass (large cookies) or shot glass (tiny cookies),
2'x2' clear surface you can spread flour on,
thin metal lifter, such as you might flip an egg with.
oven, with a rack set 4" from the bottom element.
oven mitts or hotpads.
A working timer, or a visible timepiece, preferably with an alarm (because you'll be working while the batches bake).
two dinner plates lined with paper towel or a baking rack, to cool cookies on.
Waxed paper, to set cookies on while icing hardens.
Preheat oven to 375 F. With a paper towel, grease the cookie sheet with a thin layer of butter.
2 C table or caster (granulated) sugar
1 lb unsalted butter, let stand outside of fridge until it is at cool room temperature, so that it is workable but not completely soft or - god forbid - runny, which will make greasy cookies.
5 C all-purpose or cake flour
1/4 C vodka (this will evaporate during baking and the final product will be
1 T vanilla
1/2 C flour for rolling, in a small bowl or coffee mug.
3 T butter for greasing cookie sheet, on a piece of paper towel.
2 C icing (powdered) sugar
2 -3 T rosewater
2-3 T lemon juice
Optional: a few drops of yellow and red food colouring.
Cream the sugar and vanilla into butter (put the butter in the bowl, mash it up until it's a paste rather than a block, add the sugar 1/2 C at a time, mix it in thoroughly) with a pastry cutter or two knives or a wooden spoon, as you like.
Work in flour until mixture has the texture of cornmeal.
Add vodka slowly, mixing with a wooden spoon and with hard strokes, until you can make a soft ball of a teaspoonful of the dough. You may not need all of the vodka, or you may need a little more.
Let the dough stand while you clear, wash, and arrange a space to work in.
Wipe your surface clean and make sure it is completely dry.
Take a small handful of flour and spread it evenly over the surface. Flour both of your hands, as well, and the surface of the rolling pin.
Take a small handful of dough (1/8 - 1/5 of the total) and form it into a soft ball. * Place the ball in the centre of the work space and flatten it gently with your hands until it is a large, thick circle of dough.
Flatten it further with the rolling pin, being sure to a) roll gently, away from you, b) give the dough a quarter-turn every few strokes so it doesn't stick to the surface c) add flour to the top of the dough if the rolling pin begins to stick d) toss some flour under the dough as you turn it if the dough is beginning to stick. Don't flip the dough over: because we have carefully avoided activating the gluten (this is why vodka instead of water) it is much more fragile than bread or pizza dough and will break.
When your dough is about 1/4 inch thick, dip your cutter or glass rim into the flour and start cutting cookies. Cut each cookie as close to the others as possible to get the maximum number from each rolling. Place the cut cookies on the cookie sheet with your lifter, being careful that they have at least 1/4 ' of space between them so they won't expand into each other and stick together while baking.
When you can cut no more cookies, gather up the scraps, take another small handful of dough from the bowl, mix them together in your hands to make a ball of dough, and go back to the *.
Keep doing this until you can cut no more cookies.
When the sheet gets full, put it on the bottom rack for between 8 minutes (tiny cookies, baked but not browned) and 15 minutes (larger cookies, baked crisp and slightly brown).
These bake FAST. Set a timer for 3 minutes less than you plan to bake the cookies and check them, just to be safe. When they are crisp and golden and move easily when you shake the cookies sheet, they're done. Take them out and set them to cool, being careful not to pile them on top of each other. Regrease the cookie sheet lightly and start arranging the next batch.
When the final batch comes out of the oven, you can start making icing.
In a small bowl combine 1 C of your icing sugar with the lemon juice. Stir until it is completely dissolved. You should have a thin, rather watery icing, more of a glaze. Add more juice if necessary. If you like, add 2-3 drops of yellow food colouring to turn the glaze a pale yellow.
Dip each cooled cookie halfway into the lemon icing and lay it on the waxed paper to dry.
When all cookies have been dipped in the lemon icing, make the rose icing in the same way you made the lemon icing: icing sugar, rosewater, food colouring to make the icing a soft pink if you want.
Dip the bare side of each cookie into the rose icing, starting with the first ones you dipped in the lemon icing. Lay each cookie on new, clean waxed paper to harden again.
Allow 30 minutes for the icing to set from the time you dip the last one for the second time, then pack them in layers, seperated by paper towel, waxed paper, or tissue.
They will keep about a week, if they're well protected from humidity.
Instead of icing each cookie with lemon and rose, divide cookies into two batches and ice one batch with lemon, the other with rose, leaving half of each cookie un-iced.
Use orange blossom water, or another food-quality floral water, instead of rosewater.
Use lime or orange juice - or another fruit juice - instead of lemon.
Add 3T powdered basil or dill or powdered rosemary to the cookie dough at the butter-and-sugar stage, use citrus icing only.
Or 1T cinnamon, 1T cardamon, 1T black pepper, citrus icing only.
Ice only two corners of each cookie, not both halves.
Try whole-wheat flour or demerara sugar or both in the cookies.