[There's just nothing like a homemade gift for the holidays. This year, with the purse strings a little tighter than usual, I'm determined to make at least a few in my kitchen--and thought I'd share my ideas in case you'd like to partake, too. ]
Isn’t synchronicity the darndest thing? You know, that phenomenon when things just seem to occur around the same time. . . because. . . well, just because. Like when you learn a new word, and suddenly “schadenfreude“ seems to pop up in all the newspapers you read. Or “pecuniary” makes its appearance in every magazine article you see about the faltering economy. Save money with a “stay-cation”? It was mentioned at least once on every financial-advice show that aired in the past week. (And how about antediluvian, lachrymose, arachibutyrophobia? Okay, maybe not so much.)
I love synchronicity; I figure it’s the closest I’ll ever get to having intuition. Years ago, during a carefree Christmas shopping spree (entirely unlike this year, what with all the pecuniary limitations to my budget), I was meandering along a downtown Toronto street engrossed in a lachrymose daydream, probably about being bullied in gradeschool. For some unknown reason, I remembered a former classmate, and wondered what had become of her. In the midst of my reverie, there came from behind me a sudden, staccato warbling, like the sound an antique radio makes when being tuned: ”Ricki?! Eeeeoooooouuuuwwww! RICKI HELLER, is that you–??”
Yep, you guessed it: that very classmate, whom I hadn’t seen in over 30 years. We hugged, we excitedly exchanged updates on our lives, we traded phone numbers and swore to keep in touch–then never heard from each other again. But that sure was some synchronicity in action!
If you’ve ever thought about someone you haven’t seen in a while, only to receive a phone call from them that day; if you’ve ever had a dream about finding a $20 bill and later picked up a stray piece of paper in a parking lot that happened to be a $20 bill; if you’ve ever loved a novel by a particular author and then happened to be seated next to that author on your next flight across the country; if you’ve ever been reminded of an old love while surfing the internet only to discover the profile of said love on your Classmates page–well, if you’ve ever experienced a seemingly unrelated coexistence of two meaningfully related things in any context at all, then you, too, have experienced synchronicity. And last weekend, there it was again!
In my previous Gastronomic Gift post last week, I mentioned a pioneer of the now-booming Toronto culinary scene, Bonnie Stern. That long-ago (seems positively antediluvian, in fact) cooking class was my only encounter with Ms. Stern in person; and her recipe for Brandied Apricot-Ginger Spread was, it turns out, the only recipe of hers I’ve ever reproduced at home.
Why, just this past weekend, there she was again, peering out at me from the crinkled pages of our weekend National Post! Not only that; in the photo, she proffered some startlingly attractive shortbread cookies: rich, buttery freeform mounds topped with shards of Toblerone chocolate bars. I decided on the spot that I had to re-create those bars, but what to use instead of the Toblerone? I wanted something similar–a mix of chocolate and a sweet filling–but nothing quite as sticky (and nothing producing any arachibutyrophobia, of course). Aha! Marzipan-filled Ritter Sport!
In response to Amanda’s comment in the last post, I used my own Life in Balance Buttery Spread in place of the butter in these cookies. The result was a slightly-sandy-on-the-outside, slightly-chewy-on-the-inside, not-too-sweet and very decadent-tasting cookie. And while they don’t melt in your mouth like tradtional shortbread, the combination of rich dough and chunks of chocolate-covered marzipan is truly enchanting. The HH said he thought they weren’t “really” like shortbread as they didn’t taste “buttery” enough, but that didn’t stop him from scarfing down three of these babies in quick succession.
And while this recipe is a bit more decadent than my usual baked good, hey, it’s the holidays! Gotta live a little. Which, of course, will lead to the inevitable overindulging and weight gain. . . so as you bake up your own batch of these, you can think of me, smile, and enjoy a satisfying little taste of schadenfreude.
“Mum, you know your readers would never do that! Besides, I think I’ve had enough schadenfreude to last a lifetime, what with Chaser smirking at my cone over the past three weeks.”
Oh, and since these are intended as a holiday gift, after all, I thought they’d be a perfect submission to the Eat Christmas Cookies event hosted by Food Blogga this month. There’s already a huge array of cookies posted on the site for you to check out!
Marzipan-Topped Shortbread Cookies
You needn’t stick with marzipan chocolates for these cookies; in fact, they’d be great with many other kinds of chocolate bar–the Ritter Sport Peppermint comes to mind.
1 cup (250 ml.) homemade buttery spread, coconut oil, or other buttery spread of your choice
1/2 cup (90 g.) Sucanat
1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. (1 ml.) pure almond extract, optional
1-3/4 cups ( 245 g.) light spelt flour
1/4 cup (40 g.) brown rice flour
2 (6 ounces or 200 g.) Ritter Sport Marzipan chocolate bars (or 6 ounces/200 g. chocolate of your choice)
Preheat oven to 325 F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper, or spray with nonstick spray.
Carefully cut the chocolate bars into squares. Take 13 squares and cut them diagonally in half, creating 26 triangles (these will be used to decorate the tops of the cookies). Chop the remaining chocolate and set aside.
Combine the buttery spread, Sucanat, vanilla and almond extract in the bowl of a food processor and process until very smooth and creamy, and until the Sucanat has dissolved.
Add the spelt flour and rice flour and pulse until the mixture comes together as a soft dough. Scrape down sides of processor and incorporate any leftover flour into the dough. Remove the blade and gently stir the chopped chocolate into the dough.
Using a small ice cream scoop or tablespoon, roll mounds of dough into balls and place about 1 inch (2.5 cm.) apart on cookie sheets. Flatten slightly with the palm of your hand, then press a triangle of chocolate into the top of each one (if you have any leftover triangles, this is a good time to pop them in your mouth).
Bake in preheated oven for 25-35 minutes, rotating the cookie sheet once about halfway through, until the cookies are golden brown on the edges. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. Makes 24-26 cookies. May be frozen.
Other Gastronomic Gifts:
GG I: Fudge Two Ways
GG IV: Jam-Filled Turnovers
GG VI: Pumpkin Butter
GG VII: Chocolate Macaroons in a Flash
Last Year at this Time: Pumpkinseed Shortbread Buttons
© 2008 Diet, Dessert and Dogs