Vail Baking: These bites are pleasing, uncomplicated
Life is Sweet
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado –Delicate, buttery, and oh, so tender … these lemon blueberry bites are a lovely spring treat.
Everything about them is pleasant and light: Lemon-flavored shortbread is accented with blueberry jam and a crown of lemon glaze adds a hint of creamy sweetness. The tastes are subtle, the texture melts in your mouth and the looks are picture-pretty. Serve them as an accompaniment to sweetened fresh berries or sorbet for an elegant, understated dessert.
Making these cookies is almost as enjoyable an experience as eating them. The dough requires only five ingredients and comes together in a few minutes in a food processor. The glaze is even easier. It’s hard to believe something so pleasing is so uncomplicated to prepare.
Several things are essential to their success. Use good ingredients: fresh, unsalted butter, real lemon extract and good blueberry preserves. Handle the dough gently and as little as possible. Process it only until it is evenly moist and forming large curds and pat it into balls with the lightest hand. Once baked, remember that these are fragile little things. Grab one with gusto, and it may crumble and break.
Adjust the lemon extract to your taste. Add more if you like a lemon accent that makes you pucker. Make a note to reduce it the next time you make the cookies if you prefer only the slightest amount.
Makes about two dozen cookies
3/4 cup of all purpose flour
1/4 cup of cornstarch
1/4 cup of confectioner’s sugar
8 tablespoons of unsalted butter (one stick), cold
1/2 teaspoon of lemon extract
About 1/4 cup of blueberry jam
1/2 cup of confectioner’s sugar
2 teaspoons of milk or cream
1/4 teaspoon of lemon extract
1 to 2 teaspoons of water
Step One: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, with a rack in the center position. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or no-stick aluminum foil. (Using a liner rather than greasing the pan will keep the cookies from spreading.)
Step two: Put the flour, cornstarch and confectioner’s sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine well. Cut the butter into small pieces and add them to the processor along with the lemon extract. Pulse to combine, then process only until all the dry ingredients are fully moistened and a shaggy dough forms. Don’t overwork the dough. If, when you remove the top of the food processor, you find some of the dry ingredients haven’t been incorporated into the dough, gently knead them in by hand.
Step three: Using your hands, form the dough into balls that are about one inch in diameter. Place them two inches apart on the prepared pan. If the dough is soft, place the pan in the freezer for about five minutes, until the balls of dough are firm. Make an indentation in the center of each cookie. (I use a round, 1/4 teaspoon measure to do this. If it sticks to the dough, I dip it in confectioner’s sugar before pressing it into the cookie.) If the dough cracks when you make the indentation, smooth it back together with your fingers. Fill each indentation with blueberry jam. Don’t fill above the top of the indentation or the jam will overflow when the cookies are baked. You can add more jam after the cookies come out of the oven, if necessary.
Step four: Place the cookies in the oven. Bake them for five minutes, and then turn the oven down to 325 degrees. Continue to bake until the bottom of the cookies turn golden and the edges of the tops just start to show a little color. Start checking after a total baking time (including the first five minutes) of 15 minutes. Remove to a rack and cool for several minutes. Add more blueberry jam to those cookies that need it. Gently remove the cookies from the pan to the cooling rack and let them cool completely. If any of the cookies have an irregular edge, carefully shave the edges with a small, sharp knife.
Step five: Glaze the cookies: Combine the confectioner’s sugar, the milk/cream, the lemon extract and one teaspoon of water in a small bowl and whisk vigorously until very smooth. Add the additional teaspoon of water, if needed, to get the right consistency for drizzling. Drizzle some of the glaze over each cookie and let it dry. The cookies are ready to serve or they can be stored, air-tight, at cool room temperature for several days or frozen for about a month.
Contact Vera Dawson with your comments about this column and/or your cooking questions at email@example.com. 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.