Viewing all essays in #food

Shortbread: The Best Cookie

Lemon Thyme Shortbread Cookies

I’m a secret cookie hater. Ok, not cookie hater. It’s that I prefer cookies where you can actually taste something besides sugar. I'm also not big on the fancy icing and decorations, they always seem to be taste better than they look. So this year, for the annual Serious Eats cookie swap, I decided to make a shortbread that veers a little towards the savory and aromatic side. I couldn’t seem to find a definitive shortbread recipe that fit my ideal criteria - a little crumbly and not overly sweet - but came away with a few tips:

  • Using a finer-grained sugar like caster or confectioner’s produces a smoother texture.
  • I noticed that some shortbread recipes call for egg, but I decided it against it. I was afraid that I’d lose the crumbly texture and veer more towards a chewy cookie.
  • Adding a ton of lemon zest won’t hurt.
  • Try to find the best/highest quality butter you can. Wayne scored some kind of grassfed organic butter from Organic Valley with a high butterfat content that had that strong buttery smell when you open up the wrapper. I'd go for Kerrygold or Plugras as well. Since shortbread is made mostly from butter that’ll make a big difference in the end.
  • Use salted butter instead of unsalted to avoid the overly grainy texture. 
  • Creaming the sugar is important, don’t skip that!

Lemon Thyme Shortbread

Yield: 72 1/2 inch rounds
Adapted from this recipe

Ingredients: 

  • 1.5 cups salted butter 
  • 1 cup powdered sugar 
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • lemon zest from 2 large lemons 
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice 
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, stems removed 
  • 3 cups flour

Procedure:

  1. Mash the salt and fresh thyme with a mortar and pestle. The goal is to release the oils from the thyme leaves and to break down the kosher salt crystals. 
  2. Cream the butter and powdered sugar together. I used a KitchenAid stand mixer with the paddle attachment, but whatever floats your boat. 
  3. Add the salt-thyme mixture, two teaspoons of the lemon zest and lemon juice and turn the mixer back on low until these ingredients are incorporated evenly. Reserve the additional lemon zest for later.
  4.  Add the flour and turn the mixer on low to medium. It’s done when the mixture pulls up from the sides of the bowl and clumps on the paddle. 
  5. Wad the dough up into two equally sized flat discs. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. 6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
  6. Place the dough on a floured surface. Sprinkle some lemon zest on evenly as you roll the dough out to a 1/4 inch thickness. The rolling action will incorporate the lemon zest into the dough. Remember to use half the zest on the first piece of dough. 
  7. Cut out pieces at your desired shape and size and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, but be sure to check at the 10 minute mark. The edges should be golden brown. 
  8. Remove from oven and place baking sheet on a cooling rack. You can optionally sprinkle with a little kosher salt as soon as they come out of the oven for a salty kick.
  9. Enjoy!

Tacos are Better Than Burritos

I'm in the land of burritos and I would like to say unequivocally, once and for all, tacos are better than burritos. It's not that I don't like burritos! I enjoy them very much. I will always prefer tacos and here's why:

  1.  Let's face it: burritos are too big. It's the supersized food item equivalent of the Big Gulp, and just because it exists doesn't mean you should eat it all the time. I ordered a "baby" burrito yesterday and I still couldn't finish it. It's a waste of food, and a leftover burrito is never good the next day. 
  2. The proportions are off. Even in a good burrito, there's too much beans and rice. Don't you hate that half the bites you take are just filler? Or you get a big mouthful of just tortilla? It strikes me as being too kitchen sink-y, and I lose my attention before I'm even finished. 
  3. Those godawful flour tortillas. Seriously, I've never had a good flour tortilla in a burrito. They always end up having this sort of mealy texture that is unappealing. 
  4. You can only have one "flavor" - like you'd only be able to have an al pastor burrito. With tacos you can mix and match, and eat however many you are hungry for. 
  5. Burritos are NOT portable, contrary to popular belief. I smuggled a burrito from Chipotle into a movie theater once and it was a huge fail - it was a total mess and half of it ended up in my lap. That is not a portable food item and I dislike that it is treated like such. 

The best burritos are greater than the sum of their parts. So you could throw a bunch of fairly low quality components in, but it's when you take a bite and all the flavors meld together and that transcendent moment happens. I think this is why people are so passionate about their burritos. But this makes it easy to hide poor quality, flavorless meat. Rice and beans are treated as filler. Conversely, if you have great quality filling, you're covering it up with all the other stuff you've jammed into the burrito. 

Tacos are focused - they show off exactly what you're eating. If the quality of the meat is not so great, it shows. The proportion of filling to wrapper is balanced. Tacos force you to slow down for a minute, even if you're eating it on the street. It's more mindful eating - I love the smallness, intensity and variety that tacos bring to a meal. 

So please don't ask me to make you a burrito when you visit Lonestar Taco. :)