Monday, December 20, 2010

Spiced Orange Shortbread – a celebration of festive laziness

Pin It Laziness is vastly under-rated. As far as I am concerned it is an unrecognised but significant catalyst for inspiration, motivation and resourcefulness. Laziness prompts the dawning of that great realisation: there must be an easier/faster way of doing this – whatever this is. That realisation, in turn, sparks creativity in pursuit of that easier/faster way.

Oh I wish it could be Christmas every day-ay-ay! 

I had been planning a chickpea and chorizo stew as a savoury change from all the sweet baking I’ve been featuring lately, but the chickpeas need overnight soaking and there’s lots of gathering of herbs and chopping of vegetables and slicing of meats involved. That’s not normally any hassle at all, but I have yet to trim the Christmas tree, write the Christmas cards, wrap the Christmas presents – all on my To Do list today - and I want something I can produce quickly, with minimum effort – something extremely lazy.
I ask myself what could be easier/faster? The answer that quickly springs to mind is shortbread.
Measure! Mix! Bake! (Eat!!!)
It couldn’t be lazier easier. Measure. Mix. Bake. What’s more, it is so true to my philosophy - simple ingredients, magical food – that I know it is meant to be.
Santa baby, slip some shortbread under the tree for me...
I don’t have a particularly sweet tooth, but shortbread is my downfall. I can safely say this one is the best I have ever made. With the barest touch of clove and cinnamon and studded with tiny nuggets of caramelised orange peel, it is utterly festive. I have redeemed my complete lack of effort slightly by dipping half of these little stunners in melted dark chocolate. Oh, raise a glass to laziness!
For about 30 shortbread cookies you will need...... to pre-heat the oven to 170°C

175g butter, softened
75g caster sugar
200g plain flour
50g corn flour
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/16 teaspoon ground cloves
a pinch of fine table salt
2 tablespoons candied orange peel, diced
2 tablespoons iced water

1.      Place the butter and sugar in a food mixer or a large bowl and mix together until fluffy and paler in colour.
2.      Mix in the plain flour, corn flour, vanilla essence, ground cinnamon, ground cloves and salt. When these are mixed into a fine sandy crumb, add in the candied peel.
3.      Finally, add in the water, mixing just until the ingredients come together in a ball.
4.      Roll out on a floured surface to a thickness of about 7mm / ¼ inch. Cut out Christmassy (or other) shapes and place on a non-stick (or lightly floured) baking sheet. Squash any off-cuts into a ball and re-roll.
5.      Bake the cookies in the pre-heated oven for 12 – 15 minutes or until evenly golden.
6.      Transfer to a cooling rack. When cold, dust with icing sugar or dip in decent quality melted chocolate – dark, milk, or white, I’ll leave it up to you. I’m feeling far too lazy to make that decision!

Aaah - the perfect antidote to Christmas shopping!
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