High Country Baking: Oatmeal shortbread thumbprints
High Country Baking
A mild buttery taste; a crisp, tender, pebbly texture; and a quick hit of rich chocolate — this little cookie is everything a shortbread should be. Serve it with berries, ice cream or custard for a pleasing dessert or with a cup of coffee any time of day.
I’m crazy about the cookie cutter I used to make these pretty things; it adds a lot to their appeal. It’s spring-loaded and stamps the dough with a deep design that includes an indented center ready for filling when baked. It’s part of a set of three (the round one used for these cookies, another that’s heart-shaped and a third that’s a rectangle). They’re available online from Williams Sonoma as Thumbprint Cookie Stamps, set of three.
Oatmeal shortbread thumbprints
Make on a shiny metal cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Yields fourteen 2 1/4-inch cookies.
- 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon bleached all-purpose flour, spoon and level
- 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (one stick), cut into 16 pieces
- 1/4 cup quick-cooking or old-fashioned oatmeal
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional
- 2 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon canola oil
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees with a rack in the center position. To make with a food processor, place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse to combine well. Add the butter and pulse until the texture is like coarse meal. Add the oatmeal and (if using) vanilla, and pulse until a moist dough forms and almost makes a ball on the blade. To make with a mixer, place the butter in a mixing bowl and bring to room temperature. Add the sugar and salt and beat on low speed until combined but not completely smooth. Add the flour, oats and (if using) vanilla, and mix on low speed until the dough has almost come together, scraping the bowl as needed. Don’t over-mix.
Dump the dough out onto a sheet of waxed paper and gently knead into a disc. Place it between two sheets of waxed paper and roll to uniform thickness of a little over one-quarter of an inch. (If the dough is sticky or too soft to cut easily, chill it between the sheets of waxed paper until the dough firms up a little but is still quite pliable.) Gently remove the top sheet of waxed paper, cut out cookies using a 2-inch round cookie cutter and put them an inch apart on the prepared cookie sheet. If your cutter sticks to the dough, dip it in flour and shake off the excess. Using your thumb or a round quarter-teaspoon measure, make an indentation in the center of each cookie. (This isn’t necessary if you use the thumbprint cutter described above). Move the pan of cookies to the freezer until they’re quite firm. (This helps prevent spreading while baking). Gently gather the dough scraps together, form them into a disc, roll, cut and chill as described above.
Bake until the cookies are set, the edges and bottoms are golden, and the tops are slightly colored, 25-35 minutes (the time depends on their temperature at the start of baking). Remove them from the oven and, if the cookies’ indented centers have puffed up, gently press them down to deepen them. As soon as you can, remove the cookies from the pan to cool completely on a rack.
To fill the cookies, place the chopped chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and heat it at a low temperature in a microwave oven until almost melted. Remove from the oven, add the oil and stir until fully melted and smooth. If necessary, let the mixture sit until it thickens slightly, then spoon it into the cookies’ centers and let it set up. The cookies can be stored at cool room temperature for three days or in the freezer for one to two months.
Vera Dawson’s column “High Country Baking” publishes biweekly in the Summit Daily News. Dawson is a high-elevation baking instructor and author of three high-altitude cookbooks. Her recipes have been tested in her kitchen in Frisco, where she’s lived since 1991, and altered until they work at elevation. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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