Fourth of July shortbread sundaes treat worth celebrating
VAIL CO, Colorado
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.
Is there a better place to spend the Fourth of July than in our mountain towns? I don’t think so. Fireworks, music, parades, craft fairs, good food, smiling people and a sense of community that is a true representation of what’s best about our country. Yup, we’ve got a lot to celebrate!
With so much to do on Independence Day, nobody wants to spend time in the kitchen creating an intricate dessert. It’s a day to serve something that’s easy to prepare and sure to please folks of all ages. These Fourth of July Shortbread Sundaes fill the bill. The cookies can be made way ahead of time and frozen until the day they’ll be used. The berries and ice cream that they accompany require no cooking at all; Just combine and macerate the fruit, scoop the cold stuff, decorate with the shortbread and you’ve got a tasty, pretty and patriotic ending to a wonderful day.
Fourth of July Shortbread Sundaes
Makes 8-10 sundaes
(This recipe makes from 20-30 star-shaped cookies of varying sizes)
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of vanilla
2 ounces cream cheese, softened and cut into pieces
1/2 cup of butter (8 tablespoons, one stick), softened if making with mixer, cut into eight pieces
1 pint of strawberries
1 pint of raspberries
1 pint of blueberries
1 pint of blackberries
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1 quart of vanilla ice cream
Make the star cookies: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees with a rack in the center position. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or aluminum foil. Don’t grease it, the cookies might spread. Place a second cookie sheet under the one on which you’ll bake the cookies to provide insulation and prevent the bottom of the cookies from overbrowning.
With a food processor: Put the sugar and the flour in the bowl of the processor and pulse briefly to combine. Add the vanilla, the pieces of cream cheese and the cut-up butter to the bowl and pulse until the dough starts to come together but stop just before it forms a ball. Turn the dough out of the processor and gently knead until it is smooth and coherent.
With a mixer: Beat the softened butter with the softened cream cheese until very smooth. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is creamy. Stir in the vanilla, and then gradually add the flour, stirring only until it is no longer visible after each addition. When the dough starts to come together, stop stirring and gently knead until it is smooth and coherent.
Pat the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and chill until it is firm enough to roll out. (This takes about an hour in the refrigerator) Place the disc of dough between two sheets of plastic wrap and roll to a thickness of just under a fourth of an inch. Remove the top sheet of plastic wrap and, using star cookie cutters (I used three different sized cutters) dipped in flour before each cut, cut out the cookies and place them about an inch apart on the prepared cookie sheet. Re-roll the scraps of dough and cut out more cookies. If the dough gets so soft that it sticks to the cutter, chill it again before cutting out the second batch of cookies. Place the cut-out cookies, on the cookie sheet, in the freezer and freeze for about 7 minutes, until they are very firm. This helps prevent them from spreading while they are baking.
Bake in the preheated oven until the top is set and the bottoms and sides of the cookies are just golden. This takes about 9-13 minutes in my oven, but times will vary. Remove the cookies from the oven and immediately transfer them to a rack to cool. Store for two days in an airtight container at cool room temperature of freeze for longer storage.
Prepare the berries: At least one hour and up to four hours before serving, gently wash and dry all the berries, hull and quarter the strawberries and combine them with the others in a large bowl. Add the sugar and carefully toss (don’t bruise the berries) until are coated. Cover and refrigerate until serving time, stirring occasionally.
To serve, place a scoop or two of ice cream in each bowl, spoon the berries over and around them, making sure there are equal amounts of both blue and red berries. Top with a couple of the cookies and serve. You may have some berries left over.
The cookie recipe is a variation of one in “500 Best Cookies, Bars and Squares.”
The filling comes from “Cookies Unlimited.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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