High Country Baking: Freeze-dried strawberries bring a flavor punch to this shortbread recipe
Have you tried baking with freeze-dried berries? They deliver an intense, all-natural flavor that really sings. Try these pretty shortbread hearts and you’ll see how simple they are to use. After they are whirled in a food processor and strained until they become a fine powder, freeze-dried strawberries are added to the dry ingredients. That’s all there is to it, the recipe remains the same … no other added steps. They’ll provide a welcome boost to the taste, color and complexity of cookies, cakes, custards, fillings, frostings and just about anything you can think of.
If you lack a food processor, use a rolling pin to crush the freeze-dried berries, still in their bag or in a closed plastic bag, into a powder. The closed bag is essential, it collects the powder and prevents the berries from flying all over the place as you smash them.
The amount of flour you use is critical to the success of this recipe. The dough will be dry and may not hold together when rolled if you use too much. Use bleached flour and gently spoon and level it when measuring, so it doesn’t compact. If you have only unbleached flour, which weighs more per cup than bleached flour, use 1 cup, 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon of flour rather than 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons.
Strawberry shortbread hearts
Works at any elevation, make on a parchment-lined cookie sheet
Yields 17 2-inch hearts
- 1 ounce freeze-dried strawberries
- 1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons bleached all-purpose flour, spoon and level
- ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons (one stick) unsalted butter
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla paste or extract
- 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
- 1-4 teaspoons milk
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract, optional
Get ready: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees with a rack in the center position. Process the freeze-dried berries in a food processor until powdery. Leave the top on the processor and set it aside for a few minutes until the powder settles. Place a fine mesh sieve over a small bowl or one-cup measure and pass the strawberry powder through it to separate out the seeds, which should remain in the sieve after the powder falls to the bowl below. Dispose of the seeds and set the powder aside.
Make the cookie dough: Add the flour, sugar, salt, and all but 1-2 teaspoons of the strawberry powder to the bowl of the food processor (no need to wash it after processing the freeze-dried berries). Pulse to combine well. Cut the butter into small pieces, add them, with the vanilla and pulse again until the mixture is evenly moistened and comes together in large, moist clumps. Turn the dough out of the processor bowl onto a large sheet of waxed paper and gently knead until smooth.
Roll and cut the cookie dough: While still on the waxed paper, form the dough into a disc. Top with another large sheet of waxed paper and roll the dough to a 3/8-inch thickness. If the dough has softened, slide it, still between the two sheets of waxed paper, onto a cookie sheet and refrigerate until it’s firm enough to cut. Gently remove the top sheet of waxed paper and use a 2-inch heart cookie cutter to cutout cookies. Place them an inch apart on the prepared cookie sheet. Re-roll the dough and cut out more cookies.
Chill, bake and cool the cookies: Slide the cookie sheet, with the cookies on it, into the freezer or refrigerator and chill until the cut dough is quite firm — about 20 minutes in a freezer and longer in the fridge. This will help prevent them from spreading while baking. Bake until the cookies are set and lightly colored on the bottoms, start checking at 18 minutes. How cold they are when they’re placed in the oven will determine how long they will need to bake. Cool completely on a rack before glazing.
Glaze and decorate the cookies: Add the confectioners’ sugar, 1 teaspoon of the milk and the vanilla (if using) to a small bowl and whisk. Slowly add more milk and continue whisking until the mixture reaches a consistency that easily slides/drips off a spoon. Brush some on a test cookie, the pink color of the baked dough should remain visible. If it doesn’t, thin the glaze with a little more milk. Brush the top of each cookie with a thin layer of glaze and, if desired, sprinkle on the remaining strawberry powder. Let the glaze set.
Store the cookies: Store the cookies, well covered, at room temperature for up to five days.
Note: This recipe is a variation of one published on The Floured Table website.
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 email@example.com.
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