Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mille fois merci

Quizbowl practice was today instead of tomorrow on account of me being out of town for the next few days, so I came up with a dessert a day earlier than usual. I'm trying to use up this semolina flour I have. For one thing, I don't want it sitting in the cupboard growing stale and taking up space. For another, I'm sort of in love with its texture and want every excuse to play with it. Semolina buttermilk cake with a light chocolate frosting is in the future, but I didn't have time to embark upon anything that adventurous, so I'm saving it for next week.

The recipe that follows is my take on these little shortbread-style cookies from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. My all-time favorite shortbread recipe (thank you, Good Housekeeping) uses a different butter-to-egg yolk ratio, so I went with that one, and slicing cookies makes me nervous and impatient and frustrated, so I rolled these out instead and cut them. I don't own cookie cutters*, but my Brandeis chemistry department shot glass was the perfect size for tiny, delicate, sophisticated biscuits. Note that these were actually a poor decision for practice; they don't transport well at all, so eat them in the house. Note as well that the degree to which the butter is softened is very important in shortbread. It needs to be slightly cool still, but there can't be any resistance to it when it's beaten in an electric mixer.

I should also note that these practices are a major highlight of my week. It's quizbowl just how I like it: no drama, just questions, intriguing people, and general nerdy rumpus (and, of course, chow). I'm not sure how many of the Unofficial New York Quizbowl Conglomerate read these posts, but if you're one of them, hi! I'm grateful for your participation. Have a cookie.

Semolina shortbreads with thyme and apricot, adapted from Mark Bittman's brown sugar cookies with sea salt from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

1 stick softened unsalted butter
1/4 cup light brown sugar, only somewhat packed
2 egg yolks
1 cup semolina flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
dried apricots, sliced thinly
1/4 teaspoon salt

Using an electric or stand mixer on very low speed, beat the butter and sugar for 30 seconds or until just combined. Beat in the yolks on low speed, then add the flour, salt, and thyme. Mix just until everything comes together. I added about half a tablespoon more softened butter to make the dough hold together since it was just too crumbly otherwise; I suspect my smallish egg yolks necessitated this. Form the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate it for at least an hour. When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350. Roll out the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap or parchment paper to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out the cookies and place them on a parchment paper-lined sheet. Gently, gently, gently press a slice of dried apricot in the center of each cookie. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes until they're very lightly browned at the edges. Let them cool on the pan just until they can be handled, then gently transfer them to a cooling rack to finish.

*With the exception of these amputee gingerbread man cookie cutters that will doubtless make their appearance in December.

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