You may have already noticed that almost every popular Chinese New Year pastry we are serving for the festival is buttery, eggy and richly rich. Catch phrases such as 'soft against the tongue', 'melt in your mouth', 'short and buttery' are the usual ravings for the scrumptious treats that we are reaching for during this holiday season.
In my attempt to find something a little different to put in my cookie platter with my Pineapple Tarts, I decided to try out another recipe from what I suppose is now my favourite cookbook fom Bourke Street Bakery. This is a very buttery but rustic shortbread. Everyone should know by now the secret to an amazing shortbread is really copious amount of good butter. While most of the shortbread recipes I have come across call for creaming the butter and sugar together until a smooth whipped cream texture is obtained, this one simply requires the butter to be worked into the dry ingredients with fingertips - very much like the way short crust pastry is prepared. This method, when used with fine grain castor sugar instead of powder sugar, yields a more grainy texture hence, my earlier rustic comment. The shortness of most short bread - the melt-in-your mouth sensation- is usually achieved with the use of corn flour but BSB's recipe calls for rice flour instead. In recent years, the Japanese have raved about using rice flour for chiffon and sponge cake to impart a light and springy texture. Hence I was rather curious when I saw this not so common ingredient in the recipe. Last but not least the addition of chopped macadamia nuts just added another dimension of marvel.
As no liquid is used in shortbread recipes, the dough is commonly pressed compactly into a square mold, baked and cut into fingers or squares while it is slightly warm. For Chinese New Year, I have learnt that cookies are best served in small bite sized morsels. (For those who are unfamiliar with the customs of Chinese New Year, we typically house hop, visiting as many as 4 or 5 friends/ families in one day... eating from house to house. Hence food are usually best served in small bites..the smaller the better.) So instead of using a rectangular / square baking tray, I chose to make my shortbread in my long financier molds. When these are turned out, they take the form of a long slim stick. These can then be cut easily into small nuggets.
How do they taste?.. Crumbly and buttery, they melt away on the tongue like sweet nutty sand - rustic heaven!
Recipe (Macadamia Shortbread from Bourke Street Bakery)
175g Unsalted butter
250g plain flour
60g rice flour
1tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
125g castor sugar
80g Macadamia nuts, chopped. (do not use food processor as it will turn into a paste)
1. Preheat oven to 180C.
2. Sift plain flour, rice flour,salt and baking powder together. Add castor sugar to the flour mixture and stir to combine.
3. Cut the butter into 1.5cm cubes. Rub the cold butter into (1) with finger tips until mixture resembles bread crumbs. Add chopped macadamia nuts, rubbing together to combine. and then knead to form a dough.
4. Pat the dough into a lined square tin (20cm x 20cm x 4cm). Smoothen the surface of the dough with the back of a spoon.
5. Set (4) in the fridge for 20mins to set.
6. Bake @ 180C for 30-40mins until the shortbread is light golden. Allow to cool in the tin before turning it out. Using a serrated knife, cut the shortbread while it is still slightly warm into fingers.