Wednesday, August 26, 2009

[Cookie 036] Rum-Raisin Shortbread

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Summer is finally ending, and besides getting the an overabundance of back-to-school sale junk mail, the end of August usually means one other much more ominous thing for Californians: fire season. Yesterday, as I was driving home from a really awesome day at the beach, we rounded a curve on the 110 freeway and I saw a huge, conspicuous brown cloud blooming out of the mountains. We immediately turned on the radio and heard about the first of this years summer wild fires, but none of us were very shocked, to be honest. Every year it's like this, and every year people have to evacuate their homes.

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This morning I woke up and wandered downstairs in my usual state of semi-consciousness, when I got an abrupt deja-vu of me and my family sitting around our campfire during our backpacking trip a couple of weeks ago. I smelled that sweet woody smell of dead wood burning, which I usually love, but in this case really worried me. Then I look out the window and noticed that the sunlight shining in was far redder than usual, and I knew what we were in for. A day of staying cooped up inside--don't even think of doing any physical activity on a day with air quality like this--and trying our best not to inhale.

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I always feel that when the fires start Southern California turns into Hell. Really, it's very sinister: a red sun, yellow-orange shadows, ash literally falling from the sky like snow, temperatures in the upper 90s, and visibility on the road is noticeably compromised. It's crazy! People's houses are burning, and it's actually pretty scary. The only thing you can do to pass the time is eat cookies, because firing up the oven (pun intended...?) is probably the last thing you want to do.

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So on that note, I bring you a cookie that is the anti-hell cookie. Rum-Raisin Shortbread, though it does have some dark rum in it (an ingredient only a few might find sinful) is buttery, extremely delicate, and hits you with a bit of refreshing orange zest at first bite. In my opinion, it was a little too heavy on the butter and not heavy enough on the rum, but that's obviously up for debate.

The recipe isn't that hard, but you do have to start on it the night before you want to eat the cookies because the currants (there are no raisins in fact...a poor naming decision on behalf of the editors of The Book) need to soak overnight in rum. But once this little bit of prep-work is done, the rest of the recipe is pretty straight forward. I really like the orange zest in these because it is quite prominent, but I think most of the flavor of the alcohol burned off in the oven--or was masked by the excess of butter-flavor. Maybe you should lower the temperature of the oven and bake them longer? Just a suggestion...

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Anyway, these cookies are slice-n-bake, but also contain currants (obviously), so cutting the cookie dough log can be tricky at times. We tried a super sharp kitchen knife at first, but my dad had the most luck with a serrated bread knife in the end. But still, be careful cutting these because with both currants and coconut shreds the dough doesn't like to slice easily.

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Unfortunately, mine didn't quite end up looking like the ones in the book. They spread a lot in the oven and lost their shape, which causes me to think that the dough maybe should have been frozen instead of refrigerated? The photo in The Book has them looking thicker, sturdier, and more like shortbread. Perhaps I didn't drain the currants well enough, thus making the dough too wet and more willing to spread in the oven. But they were tasty, so I'd say make them. Nothing fantastic, but they were pretty good, and with maybe a few alterations they could be even better. Hopefully with recipes like these I'll be able to eat my way through fire season until I leave for New York!

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Rum-Raisin Shortbread
Makes about 4 1/2 dozen

Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup dark rum
  • 1 cup dried currants
  • 2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup finely shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt

Directions
  1. Combine rum and currants; cover, and let stand at room temperature overnight. Drain, reserving 2 tablespoons rum.
  2. Beat butter, sugar, and orange zest with a mixer on medium speed until creamy and smooth, about 2 minutes. Add vanilla and reserved rum, and beat until combined. Reduce speed to low. Add flour, coconut, and salt, and beat for 3 minutes. Stir in currants by hand.
  3. Form dough into 2 logs, each about 1 1/2 inches in diameter; wrap in parchment, and refrigerate 1 hour (or up to 3 days).
  4. Preheat oven to 325. Remove parchment. Slice logs into 1/4-inch-thick rounds, and space about 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment. Bake until pale golden, about 20 minutes. Let cool. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

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{End Results}
Baking Difficultly: 3/5
Ingredient Accessibility: 1.5/5 (Liquor is hard to come by...for me...and those of my age...sometimes)
Tastiness: 3/5
Attractiveness: 2/5
Is it worth it?: Yeah, especially if you like very buttery cookies.

{Pairings}
Drink: Espresso--something small and strong. An Espresso Macchiato would be awesome, in fact.
Song: Paris is Burning -- St. Vincent
Activity: A dainty tea/coffee party

P.S. The Book has begun to show signs of wear and tear!! Disaster! Catastrophe! Call for help! Ahhh!!

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13 comments:

Jennifer said...

I LOVE the healthy dose of rum in these cookies! They look and sound incredible!

DothNotWisdomCryOut said...

Maybe they're not rummy enough because you used gold rum isntead of dark rum? Gold rum isn't as spicy and sexy and rumtastic as dark rum... *shrug* And if they need more rum you could always brush on a layer of rum glaze.

Kim said...

I love that these cookies have rum in them. They sound different and interesting. Sorry to hear about the wildfires, it does sounds really scary.

Barbara said...

Yes cookies are great for these smokey, smoggy, hot and dry end-of-summer days. What am I going to do when you are in NY and I need cookies fast? I might even have to bake some myself - alas.

Lizzie said...

jennifer- thank you!

dothnotwisdomcryout- ah, good point! that definitely made a difference, i bet. i really like the idea of a rum glaze too..and also referring to rum as rumtastic and sexy. thank you thank you!

kim- they are quite different! and as for the wild fire, it's not yet contained, but today it seems a little less smokey outside...

mom- yeah, and while you're at it, you could always mail me a few. you know, like what kids these days call a "care package." (i kid, i kid...)

Pam said...

I love shortbread cookies. They are so buttery, flaky, and tasty..he he!

Your looks SO good!

thecookieshopinenglish said...

Lizzie, when I make sabl├ęs or other cookies with a lot of butter, I always use parchment paper - I found they tend to spread when baked in a silpat. Maybe it helps next time!
Cheers,
Paula

erica said...

Mmmm, these cookies look absolutely beautiful!

A Feast for the Eyes said...

I am so glad someone told me about your blog. I just bought this cookbook and blogged about the old-fashioned sugar cookies (excellent, by the way). You have made a few cookies I'm interested in, and a friend of mine and I decided to bake from this together.
You have a great blog, great photos and a great read. Can't wait to see what you bake next.

Lizzie said...

cookieshop- interesting! i'll give that a go next time. thanks for the tip!

a feast for the eyes- thanks! glad you like the blog! i can't wait to give those sugar cookies a try as well. from what i've begun to notice about her recipes, the basic, simple recipes (like sugar cookies) are always awesome.

Patricia Scarpin said...

Oh, poor book! But at least it's been put to really good use, unlike many I have at home. :(

I'm not a big fan of raisins, but love buttery cookies.

I saw something about the fires last night on the news and felt really worried. I hope everything turns out OK.

jfklds said...

"there are no raisins in fact...a poor naming decision on the editors of The Book"

I think this is why we're friends

Anonymous said...

I'd read your review thoroughly so I could avoid terrible spreading batch while baking. I increased both temperature and time and ended up with soft shortbread. I gonna have them with icecream instead.