Orange Caraway Shortbread
This recipe was inspired by a dinner enjoyed at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal in London on Thanksgiving Day, 2016. Though the British don’t celebrate Thanksgiving (they got the short end of that stick, remember?), the dinner patrons from the USA were treated to a special dessert, orange caraway shortbread sticks, with a small dish of chocolate ganache for dipping. Such a surprise, and so delicious – one of those things I just had to try when I got stateside. It will take a lot of practice to get it exactly like they did, but the flavor profile comes through, even if the presentation doesn’t. Go for it!
2 sticks of butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 Tbsp orange oil
Zest of one medium-large orange
2-1/2 cups flour
2 tsp ground caraway seed
Add the ground caraway seed to the flour and whisk to distribute evenly throughout. Set aside.
Cream the sugar and butter using the paddle attachment of your mixer until well combined and beginning to look fluffy. Add the orange oil to the butter and sugar and incorporate.
Gradually add the flour mixture by heaping tablespoons. (My suggestion is to reduce the speed of your mixer before you add the flour, otherwise you could end up looking like something from a Lucille Ball skit.
Once all of the flour has been added, scrape the paddle and using your hands (in vinyl gloves works best), form the dough into a log, then cut it in half. Wrap the halves separately in cling wrap and put them in the fridge. Allow the dough to chill for at least 30 minutes.
When ready to cook, remove the dough from the fridge and let it soften to a workable state. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.
Once the dough is workable, put it on a piece of parchment paper pre-cut to fit your cookie sheet or sheet pan. Put another piece of parchment over the dough and roll it to the desired thickness. (if you have some thickness guides for your rolling pin, use them. You’ll be glad you did.)
At this point you have your choice of presentation – rounds or sticks.
For rounds: cut rounds and put them on the cookie sheet. Take a fork and prick holes in each cookie. Sprinkle the tops with sugar (optional) and bake until the edges are just turning brown. This will depend on the size cookie cutter you use. The first time you do this, turn the light on in the oven and check periodically. Make a note how long it takes.
For sticks: roll the dough into a somewhat rectangular sheet. Cover the sheet with a piece of parchment paper and place a second cookie sheet or sheet pan on top of it. This should give the cookies a somewhat darker appearance, and they will be crispier. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven; remove the top cookie sheet/sheet pan and top parchment paper; let cool for just a couple of minutes, and while the sheet is still warm and not fully set up, using a very sharp knife cut the sheet into sticks like those pictured. Be careful not to cut through the bottom parchment paper. Remove the sticks to a cooling rack.
Adventuresome? Try some other combinations (usually accomplished by adding dry ingredients to the flour, or flavorings to the butter/sugar mixture before you add the flour).
Lemon Poppyseed comes to mind (using lemon zest, lemon oil, and poppy seeds), as does Lemon Rosemary (lemon zest, lemon oil, and finely chopped Rosemary). How about sprinkling the tops of cookies with sugar and cinnamon? Or those seasonal favorites, red and green colored sugar. Put your mind to it and try to control yourself!!!