I have written already about Dritte Mitte, the Italian-style Aperitivo that Katharina, Til, Lorenzo, Frank and I host once per month. We love to talk about how much work it is. Oh, the hours we spend trolling the market for the best greens or searching for elusive cans of ginger beer that the cocktail-of-the-week would not be complete without. Not to mention the time spent in front of the stove, rolling polpette, elbow deep in frying oil. Yes, we complain, hopefully more to each other than to our guests, but when all is said and done, we do, though we would never say it out loud, love every minute. We all enjoy (understatement) eating and cooking, and the fact that we need to provide sustenance for some 80-100 people every four weeks keeps us on our toes, keeps us trying new recipes. Because if not, we would tire of it, simple as that.
This last week’s Aperitivo consisted of lots of fat. Maybe it’s the fault of the colder weather that is now descending on Berlin, but every new plate we brought out to the guests seemed more calorie-rich than the last. Shortbread, sweet and savory at once, was a major sub-genre under last week’s general theme of Fat. We baked two different types, one being Rosemary Shortbread, which is a long-standing favorite of mine.
I originally sourced the recipe from the NYTimes (Melissa Clark). Over the years, I have modified it slightly; this is pretty much as perfect as you can get when talking shortbread. Don’t be afraid of the massive amount of butter. It is what makes shortbread shortbread, after all. I think that without the addition of the fresh rosemary, the shortbread is still ok, but the herbaceous quality gives it an extra kick that also helps to cut the richness of the butter. A good dose of salt and sea salt makes it sweet and savory at the same time.
Sweet Savory Rosemary Shortbread Recipe
2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
10 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pinch sea salt
2 teaspoons honey (or even better, a citrusy syrup
1 cup (2 sticks, 225 g, one “pack”) unsalted cold butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1. Heat oven to 325°F or 165°C (yes, low, as they must bake relatively slowly).
2. Whisk together flour, sugar, rosemary and salt.
3. Add butter, and honey (once, I replaced the honey with a lemon-flavored simple syrup that I had made for another purpose, and I found the result to be divine). Cut in with a pastry cutter, two knives or your hands (if you have a food processor, go ahead and use it) until mixture is the texture of fine crumbs.
4. Rub together/pulse in food processor a few more times until some crumbs start to come together, but don’t over-mix. Dough should not be smooth.
5. Lay parchment paper on the bottom of an 8- or 9-inch (20- or 23-cm)-square baking pan and press dough evenly into it. Prick dough all over with a fork.
6. Bake until golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes for 9-inch pan, 45 to 50 minutes for 8-inch. Cool slightly. Cut into squares, bars or wedges while still warm.
Yield: One 8- or 9-inch shortbread.