Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Great Cookie Countdown Week 1 - Butterscotch Glazed Coffee Shortbread Bars

Hi and thanks for stopping by! This year I am on a mission to find some great new cookie and other treat recipes. I don't want to wait until the holidays to find out I don't like them, so I am planning to test drive one new recipe a week until Christmas.

This week, I really wanted to try a recipe I found at Food & Wine's web site. They look very fancy but sounded wonderful. Of course, I needed to make some adjustments. I substituted regular strong coffee and instant coffee powder (Trader Joe's brand) for the espresso and espresso powder. I also left off the chocolate covered espresso beans -- maybe I'd do that if the cookies were a gift, but not for this test! Other than that, I didn't make any other changes. One added benefit of this recipe: it contains no eggs, so is a great baked gift for a friend with egg allergies.

Here's the recipe, based on this one at Food & Wine. My comments are in italics:

Butterscotch-Glazed Coffee Shortbread Bars

Shortbread Ingredients
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon finely ground instant coffee

Glaze Ingredients
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon strong-brewed coffee
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/8 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 300° and position a rack in the center of the oven. Line the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper.

1. Beat the butter with the sugar at medium speed until fluffy and very pale, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and salt.
2. In a small bowl, whisk the flour with the ground coffee. Add the dry ingredients to the mixer in 3 batches, just until the dough is combined.
3. Press the dough into the baking pan in an even layer. Spread a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the dough and smooth the dough into an even layer.

I used a very stiff spatula, using the flat back to press the dough down, and the edge to shift the dough as needed to make the thickness as even as possible. The directions recommend using a flat bottom glass, but our glasses didn't work. Use whatever you have to make the top of the dough as smooth and as even as possible. 

Dough in the pan, ready to be smoothed out:

 Plastic wrap on top, ready for final smoothing (yes I know it's red plastic wrap, I hardly use the stuff so it's what I have!):

4. When done smoothing the dough, remove the plastic wrap and bake the shortbread for about 50 minutes, until very lightly browned on top and firm but not solid to the touch.

Be careful not to overcook. I started checking mine around 40 minutes -- you don't want these to overcook. They will firm up as they cool. 

5. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool slightly, about 10 minutes. Using a ruler, cut the warm shortbread lengthwise into 8 strips, then cut crosswise into 5 rows.

Do not skip the cutting step while the shortbread is still warm! If you let it cool completely before cutting, you'll just crumble it. Here are my bars, just cut. Not perfect, but not bad :)

6. Let the shortbread bars cool completely.  Allow at least an hour for them to fully cool.

1. In a small, heavy saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, strong coffee, corn syrup and salt and bring to a boil over moderate heat, while swirling the pan.

I stirred until the sugar was dissolved, then swirled the pan to keep the glaze from burning.

2. Boil just until slightly thickened, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes; remove from the heat.

Now wait about 15 seconds are so, as the glaze will still be boiling for a bit after it's removed from the heat.

3. When the boiling subsides, immediately pour the hot glaze over the shortbread. Working quickly with a small offset spatula, spread the glaze in an even layer. Using the tip of a lightly oiled paring knife, score the glaze between the cuts, without dragging. Let cool slightly, then carefully lift out the bars and transfer to a plate. The bars can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

I found I had to reapply a bit of oil (use a neutral oil like canola or safflower) to the knife to keep it from getting gummed up as I separated the bars after they had cooled a bit. I then allowed them to cool fully on a plate.  


Overall these came out well. I like this recipe as it's easy, not too sweet, and wonderful tasting! The only changes I would make are grinding the instant coffee powder so it would be a finer texture in the bars, waiting for the bars to cool completely, and finally cooking the glaze just a tad longer so it would be a bit stiffer. I definitely recommend this recipe, and will be making it again! This is definitely one of those recipes that, even though it's quite frugal, it comes out looking very special.

This post is linked to "Show off your Stuff Party" at Fireflies and Jellybeans and Tasty Tuesday at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam. Check out all the Recipes, DIY projects and Ideas posted there!

This post is also part of 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies and Sweets Countdown! Check out the links below for more great holiday sweets.

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