- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Although any cookie I’m eating at the moment is my favorite, shortbread is one of my great dessert passions.

The recipe is deceptively simple. Plain shortbread consists of four ingredients: flour, sugar, butter and a pinch of salt.

The challenge is to infuse flour with as much butter as it can hold while balancing the amount of sugar so the cookie is not too sweet and not too bland. If you don’t get it right, you might as well eat a cracker.

Once you’ve made shortbread a few times, you’ll get a feel for it. Combining the correct amounts of ingredients will no longer be a challenge. Then you’ll be free to improvise.

One of the many things I love about shortbread is how compatible it is with other ingredients such as chocolate, nuts, tropical fruits and coconut. As good as vanilla shortbread can be, the basic recipe is just as mouthwatering when flavored with ginger, cinnamon or nutmeg.

I’ll also point out that shortbread is a very convenient recipe for a one- or two-person household.

The dough is sturdy enough that you can make what you want and freeze the remainder for weeks. And because shortbread doesn’t contain eggs, you can nibble on the raw dough without worrying about bacterial contamination.

Finally, shortbread goes very well with ice cream, as you’ll discover when you make the accompanying cinna-mocha frozen dessert.

Orange-pecan shortbread

1/2; cup unsalted butter

1/4; cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting

1 cup minus 1 tablespoon flour

1/4; teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons grated orange zest

3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Combine butter and sugar in bowl of electric mixer.

Beat at high speed 2 minutes or until light and creamy. Gradually stir in flour, salt and orange zest, beating until light. Scoop dough from mixer and form into an 8-inch-long log.

Place pecans on sheet of plastic wrap. Roll dough log on pecans to coat. Wrap dough in plastic wrap, then chill 2 hours.

To bake, cut dough into 1/2;-inch-thick slices. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in preheated 300-degree oven for 15 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned. Remove from cookie sheet and cool on wire rack.

Dust with confectioners’ sugar. Makes 16 cookies.

Note: The log of dough can be frozen for up to 3 months.

Cinna-mocha ice cream

1-1/2; cups whipping cream

1/2; cup milk

7 tablespoons sugar

2 egg yolks

1/4; teaspoon cinnamon

1/2; teaspoon espresso powder

4 ounces (1 cup) semisweet chocolate chips or chunks, divided

Combine cream, milk and sugar in a pot over low heat. Bring to a simmer.

Beat egg yolks together in a bowl. Pour about ½ cup cream mixture into yolks, and beat. Pour egg mixture back into pot.

Add cinnamon, espresso powder and 2 ounces chocolate.

Stir over very low heat until mixture is slightly thickened and chocolate melts. Strain into a bowl and chill.

When cold, pour chocolate mixture into electric ice cream machine; process until almost firm. Stir in remaining 2 ounces chocolate and continue to process until firm. Makes about 1 pint. (4 servings).

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