Vera Dawson
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VAIL CO, Colorado

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August 24, 2012
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High Country Baking: Rosemary shortbread cookies

Editor's note: Living in the Colorado high country is pure joy. Baking in it isn't. High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the mountains successful.

Want to shake up your taste buds and get their full attention? Try these rosemary shortbread cookies. Unlike the usual sweet shortbreads we know so well, these are an intriguing blend of sweet and savory. The texture is tender and sandy, as we anticipate, and the delightful buttery flavor is still there, but this cookie also has a subtle taste of rosemary --a real unexpected surprise. Testers report it took a moment to adapt to the combination, but once they did, they thought it was inspired!

This isn't a cookie jar kind of pastry; its appeal is sophisticated and adult. The time to serve it is ahead of a meal rather than in the dessert course. We love it, before coming to the table, with a glass of sherry, a bit of cheese, and some fresh fruit or as the perfect companion to a cup of tea or coffee any time of day.

Like most shortbreads, this one is quite easy to make. Just remember to use high quality, fresh unsalted butter and good dried rosemary. Handle the dough with reverence once the flour has been added, rough handling results in a tough cookie. If you really love rosemary, decorate each cookie with a fresh sprig. But, although I like the look, I think the cookies taste better undecorated.

You may want to hang around the kitchen while these gems are in the oven; the aroma of the baking rosemary is heavenly!

Rosemary shortbread

Make in an 8 1/2 inch springform pan

Ingredients

1 cup of flour

1/4 teaspoon of baking powder

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1 1/2 teaspoons of dried rosemary, crumbled

6 tablespoons of unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 tablespoon of honey

1/4 cup of confectioners' sugar

Optional decoration: Rosemary springs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, with a rack in the center position. Generously grease the pan with butter or a vegetable oil-flour spray and set it aside.

Place the flour, baking powder, salt, and crumbled rosemary in a bowl and whisk to combine them well. Cut the room-temperature butter into small pieces, place them in another bowl with the honey and sugar, and beat with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the flour mixture and stir by hand with a silicone spatula or a wooden spoon or beat on your mixer's lowest speed only until the dry ingredients are no longer visible. Don't overbeat.

Turn the dough out onto a sheet of waxed paper and gently knead it a few times until it comes together. Distribute the dough evenly over the pan's bottom and press it into place, smoothing it as you go (I do this through a piece of plastic wrap). The dough should be level in the pan and completely smooth. Use a sharp knife or a bench knife to score the circle of dough into eight to 10 wedges of the same size. Use a fork to prick each wedge several times to allow air to escape while baking. If you plan to use rosemary sprigs as a decoration, carefully press one into each of the wedges. Press the prongs of the fork all around the outer edges of the dough for a decorative touch.

Place the pan in the oven and bake until the shortbread is dry all the way through and light golden in color, with darker edges. This takes from 20-25 minutes in my oven. If the edges of the dough darken before the cookie is done, cover them with a strip of foil. Once the shortbread is baked, place the pan on a cooling rack. After about 10 minutes, carefully remove the sides of the springform pan. While the shortbread is still warm, cut it into wedges along the scored marks and let the cookies cool completely. Store the cookies in an airtight container at cool room temperature for several days or freeze for up to six weeks.

This is a variation of a recipe from Gourmet Magazine.

Vera Dawson, a chef instructor with CMC's Culinary Institute, lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at veradawson1@gmail.com.


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The VailDaily Updated Aug 24, 2012 04:52PM Published Aug 24, 2012 04:49PM Copyright 2012 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.