Thursday, February 7, 2013

Sweet & Salty Apple Shortbread

This is a simple and craving-satisfying dessert to enjoy those late-season apples in something a little less usual.   Apple pie is great and all, but these little treats can be tucked into a lunch bag, purse, or briefcase (um, use a ziploc baggie or something...) for a happy smile when you need a pick me up. 

The recipe for Salty Apple Shortbread is from Vanilla Sugar Blog (reprinted with permission) and is just too pretty not to try.  Utah apples are plentiful and shortbread is one of my favorite desserts.  These are absolutely wonderful in the morning with coffee. Bonus: these are fast and easy enough to make on a weekday evening! 

The most important bit of pre-planning here is bringing the butter to room temperature.  Salted butter does just fine on the counter at normal house temperatures, just pop a couple of sticks onto a plate and leave them out overnight. Oh, and use real butter.  Your recipe will thank you. 

This needs approximately one large apple; maybe two if they are small.  Sprinkle lemon juice over the chopped apples to keep them from turning brown.  My first batch turned out too moist, I think because the apples were too juicy, so I adjusted the recipe for the second batch.  Instead of mixing the sea salt in with the flour and baking powder, I sprinkled it over the apples and let them sit for a half hour so the salt pulled out some of the moisture, then squeezed out the juice and used the drier apple bits.  It's a method I learned with zucchini.  The second batch turned out with that perfect melt-in-your-mouth shortbread texture I was hoping for!  Lesson learned, don't skip that step. 

The rest of the recipe is quick to put together, just a couple of mixing bowls and all the usual suspects for baking.  I tried almond extract in one variation and that is delicious too, but did overpower the delicate apples, so I suggest sticking with vanilla.

I used a 9x13 pan to keep a more traditional shortbread style of thin flat bars, but another option is to use a smaller pan and cook them a little longer.  Mine took longer to cook anyway, about 20 minutes total before reaching that pretty golden-brown stage.  I sifted powdered sugar over the second batch instead of glazing.  Both are delicious! 

A few photos from the making:

Crumbly shortbread texture just before pressing dough into the pan

Ready to go into the oven!  Press it down tightly so it holds its form after baking.

Shortbread with glaze, cooled and removed from the pan.  Parchment paper makes everything easy. 

Sweet & Salty Apple Shortbread

2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups peeled chopped or grated apples (1/2" to 1/4") (choose a kind that is sweet and firm)
fresh lemon juice for the apples (optional)
sea salt for the top (optional but highly recommended!)
powdered sugar for the top (optional)
*Special: Parchment paper - this is to help lift them out when done baking - note that this is NOT wax paper.

For the glaze (optional):
2 Tbsp half & half (or whole milk)
2 Tbsp butter
3/4 cup powdered sugar (sifted to avoid lumps)
1/4 tsp cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 375 F with the rack at the middle level.  Line a 9x13 inch pan with baking parchment and grease lightly.
2. Mix the flour and baking powder, set aside.
3. Cream the butter, brown sugar, and vanilla extract.
4. Blend in the flour mixture, until just combined, no overmixing. Add in the chopped apples and mix again. This mixture is very crumbly. Dump mixture into pan and use your fingers to press the dough evenly into the pan. Sprinkle a bit of sea salt on the top of the dough if you're using it.
5. Bake 6 minutes, rotate the pan, and bake 7-12 minutes more or until the edges are golden brown.
6. Let cool completely before applying glaze. You’ll know when it’s done when the center is almost firm and edges are golden brown.
7. For the glaze, put all the ingredients in a small saucepan on medium heat.
8. Whisk until smooth and barely bubbly. Drizzle the glaze over the bars. You can drizzle or coat the entire top.
9. Cool until the pan is just warm to the touch and cut into bars with a sharp knife.
10. Makes about 20 bars, depending on how big/small you cut them.

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