I adore the French Impressionist painters as much as I do a perfect butter cookie. These shortbreads allow me to experience the thrill of both. Inspired by the unmistakable style of Claude Monet, I decorate my cookies with a painterly technique. It is easy to forget that one is baking as you dab and brush these cookies with pastel colored edible petal dust. If you have a chance to visit Paris, it is definitely worth the hour train ride to Giverny to see the glorious gardens that inspired Monet's masterpieces —and these cookies can become treasures to enjoy at your very own Royal Wedding. They are easy enough for a child to make, so grab your brushes and follow me...
Special occasion baking inspires the artist in all of us regardless of our age. Luana is 7 1/2 years old and the daughter of our pastry chef Marcelo Gonzalez. During her school vacations she often comes to bake with us. She amazed me with her concentration and focus. She spent several hours rolling, cutting and decorating her cookies. You can see from the photos how proficient her small hands have become.
(Makes 24-30 cookies depending on the size of cutter)
Shortbread cookies are quite easy to make. They traditionally have just a few ingredients, so the buttery flavor really comes through. Sugar sprinkled over the hot baked cookies as they come out of the oven gives them an extra crunch. For special occasions I skip the sugar and dip them in tempered chocolate. This week in celebration of the Royal Wedding, I have brushed them with the petal dust.
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into ½-inch cubes
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Grated zest of ½ lemon
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar, for sprinkling
1. Position racks in the center and top third of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper.
2. Beat the butter in the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until the butter is smooth, about 1 minute. Gradually add the superfine sugar, then the vanilla and lemon zest, mixing until light in color and texture, about 3 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to low. In thirds, add the flour and salt. Mix, scraping down the sides of the bowl to be sure the dough is well combined, until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl.
3. Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and knead briefly until smooth. Dust the work surface and the top of the dough with flour, and roll out the dough into a 1/4-inch-thick rectangle. Using a 2-inch round fluted cookie cutter, cut out the cookies, and place them 1 inch apart on the half-sheet pans. Gather up the scraps, roll out, and cut out more cookies until all of the dough has been used. Refrigerate the cookies until chilled, about 30 minutes.
4. Bake, switching the position of the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking, until the edges are very lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle the cookies lightly with the granulated sugar. Cool completely on the pans. If you are going to be using the petal dust, do not sprinkle them with sugar. When they are completely cool decorate the cookies with the petal dust.
5. HOW TO APPLY PETAL DUST: Using a small dry paint brush, apply each color on the cookies surface in a jabbing motion. Decorate all the cookies in the same pattern. Dust one color at a time on all the cookies, then proceed with the next color, repeating until all the cookies have been completed. To finish off the cookies, use a 1 1/2 clean dry brush and lightly brush to mute the colors.
(The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 5 days.)
ROYAL WEDDING SHORTBREAD COOKIES
Adapted from Sarabeth's Bakery:From My Hands to Yours (Rizzoli 2010)