A sure hit: espresso shortbread cookies
Whenever I've baked these, guests start off politely by taking just one. And then another. And another. Admittedly, they're not much to look at, but taste-wise, they’re irresistible, especially if you serve them with vanilla or coffee ice cream. The grit and the slight bitterness of the ground espresso beans seems to cut the sweetness of the shortbread.
Fleming was pastry chef at Gramercy Tavern in New York when Craft's Tom Colicchio was chef there. The recipe comes from her 2001 book, "The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern" (Random House, New York, $40).
Remember to start the dough early enough: It needs to chill for a couple of hours before rolling out (but you can always cheat by putting the dough in the freezer for a little while). She likes to sometimes dip the cookies halfway into melted chocolate. This I have not yet tried.
Yield: 2 dozen cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup ground espresso
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until creamy and smooth, about two minutes. Add the vanilla and beat well. On low speed, mix in the flour, espresso, and salt until just combined. Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least two hours.
2. Preheat the oven to 300 F. Roll the dough between two sheets of wax paper to 1/4 inch thick (an 8-by-12-inch rectangle). Using a sharp knife, cut the shortbread into 2-inch squares and place them 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets (do not reroll the scraps). Prick the shortbread with a fork and bake until pale golden around the edges, 20 to 24 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack. [UPDATED July 26 at 10:45 a.m. to correct baking time and size]
-- S. Irene Virbila
Photo credit: S. Irene Virbila /Los Angeles Times