I’ll come right out with it: cup measurements freak me out. (And that’s cup measurements for baking Mister, before your mind starts wandering elsewhere. Tsk).
Despite possessing a set of measuring cups, not to mention several conversion charts, I am never entirely sure how much a cup of X actually contains, as it seems to vary quite significantly, depending on how that cup of X was filled and who was doing the filling. Give me ounces or grams and the reassurance of a weighing scales any day.
My cup-o-phobia was the one thing, in fact, that concerned me ever so slightly about participating in the International Holiday Cookie Recipe Exchange. The brainchild of Adrienne from Gastroanthropology and Lori from Fake Food Free, the idea behind the exchange was to pair up participating bloggers, who would then swap recipes for seasonal treats. Would I be foiled by the dreaded cup measurements in my designated exchange recipe?
And the answer to that was, thankfully, no, not this time.
It was with an immense sigh of relief that I clapped eyes on the formula for butterscotch-glazed coffee shortbread bars sent to me by Lisa, from Lisa Is Cooking. Safe in the knowledge of the standard 3-parts-flour-to-2-parts-butter-to-1-part-sugar ratio for shortbread, I did not have to agonise over those 2¼ cups plus 2 tablespoons of flour. I could get on with delighting in the shortbread, which I did, very much.
I was so sorry to see the last of these bars go, in fact, that I’m baking another batch right now and inhaling the buttery aroma as I type. And a cup of tea or coffee is the only kind of cup I’ll need to make these perfect.
Butterscotch-Glazed Coffee Shortbread Bars
Lisa tells me that this is a Flo Braker recipe, originally published in the December 2008 issue of Food and Wine (that’s the U.S. magazine, not the Irish one of the same name). You can see Lisa’s own take on the recipe over here and I have done very little to change it, other than as noted below:
– I substituted a small amount of rice flour for some of the plain flour, which is what I almost always do when making any kind of shortbread, as it adds a slight sandiness to the texture, which I like.
– Instead of using light corn syrup in the glaze, I added golden syrup, which is a much more commonly available equivalent in these parts.
– I used a slightly smaller baking tin, partly because I didn’t have the larger sized tin specified and partly because Lisa reckoned that it would be nice to make the bars slightly thicker. It was. Good call Lisa.
– The recipe calls for chocolate-covered coffee beans and, as I didn’t have any of those, but did have chocolate and coffee beans, I made my own. See recipe following.
– I grated some orange zest onto the bars once they were done. It gave them a lovely festive lift, though they are just as good without.
Where relevant, I’ve given metric and imperial equivalents for the original cup measurements, so you can use whichever you prefer, though there are no prizes for guessing where I stand on that particular matter.
For the shortbread:
- 350g / 12oz / 2 ¼ cups plus 2 tblsp plain flour [or use a mix of 1 part rice flour to 4 parts plain flour]
- 1 tblsp finely ground espresso beans
- 0.25 tsp salt
- 225g / 8oz / 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
- 100g / 4oz / ½ cup plus 1 tblsp sugar
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
For the glaze:
- 4 tblsp unsalted butter, softened
- 50g / 2oz / ⅓ cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 tblsp strong-brewed espresso
- 1 tblsp light corn syrup or golden syrup
- Pinch of salt
- 40 chocolate-covered coffee beans [see recipe following]
- Zest of half an orange (optional)
You’ll also need:
- Parchment paper plus a baking tin: for thicker bars, use a 20cm x 30cm (8in x 12in) baking tin, for thinner bars, use a 22.5cm x 32.5cm (9in x 13in) tin
The Shortbread Steps:
- Preheat the oven to 150C and position a rack in the center of the oven. Line the bottom of your baking tin with parchment paper.
- Whisk the plain flour, rice flour (if using), ground coffee and salt together well in a medium-sized bowl.
- In a separate bowl, beat the butter and sugar until very pale and fluffy (or use a food processor or stand mixer to do the job for you).
- Beat the vanilla into the butter and sugar.
- Add the flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing just until the dough is combined.
- Press the dough into the baking tin. Spread a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the dough and, using a flat-bottomed glass, smooth the dough into an even layer. Remove the plastic wrap and bake the shortbread for about 50 minutes, until very lightly browned on top and firm but not solid to the touch.
- Transfer the tin to a rack to cool slightly, about 10 minutes. Cut the warm shortbread lengthwise into 8 strips, then cut crosswise into 5 rows. Allow the bars to cool completely.
The Glaze Steps:
- In a small, heavy saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, espresso, corn syrup or golden syrup and salt and bring to a boil over moderate heat, swirling the pan. Boil just until slightly thickened, around 1.5 to 2 minutes, then remove from the heat.
- Immediately the bubbling subsides, pour the hot glaze over the shortbread. Working quickly, spread the glaze in an even layer using a spatula or palette knife or similar. Using the tip of a lightly oiled paring knife, score the glaze between the cuts, without dragging. Press a chocolate-covered coffee bean into the centre of each bar.
- Let the bars cool slightly, then carefully lift them out and transfer to a plate. Sprinkle with orange zest if you like, and tuck in. If there are any left when you’re done, they’ll keep in an airtight tin for up to a week (though you might have to hide the tin if you want them to last that long).
- For some reason, I couldn’t help but want to introduce some banana into this shortbread equation, perhaps using the shortbread as a base for a kind of banoffi bar, topped with some caramelised bananas in a butterscotchy caramel. I’ll have to work on that one.
- 40 little shortbread bars
Chocolate-covered Coffee Beans
I considered buying some chocolate-covered coffee beans for the shortbread recipe, until I realised that I had both chocolate and coffee beans at my disposal, so I made my own. It hardly requires a recipe, really – the process can be neatly summarised as follows: melt chocolate, stir in the beans, leave to set. If you wanted to be fancy about it, you could temper the chocolate, but there’s no real need. As for amounts, I would say that around 25g chocolate should be plenty to coat 2 tblsp coffee beans.
- good quality dark chocolate
- good quality coffee beans
You’ll also need:
- parchment paper
- Break the chocolate up into small pieces, place in a heatproof bowl over a pot of hot (but not simmering) water and keep over a very low heat until just melted. Alternatively, place the chocolate pieces in a microwave-safe bowl and give it a series of short bursts (say 10 seconds or so) on medium power, checking after each 10 second burst and continuing until the chocolate has just melted.
- Stir in the coffee beans until coated with the chocolate.
- Spread the coated coffee beans on parchment paper, separating any clumps into individual beans. Leave to set for a few hours or overnight if possible. You can keep them in an airtight container in the fridge if not using straight away.
- If you’re comfortable with tempering chocolate, then by all means do that if you’d like your coated beans to sport a glossier sheen. You can also vary this simply by varying your choice of chocolate and coffee bean, each of which will have their own distinctive flavours.
- Chocolate-coated coffee beans for your enjoyment.