Sweet Gratitude by Judith Sutton
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BROWN SUGAR SHORTBREAD

These couldn't be quicker or easier—no need to chill the dough or roll it out, you just mix it, pat it into the pan, and bake—but they are incredibly delicious. They have a slight caramel undertone from the brown sugar and a delightfully crumbly texture; when someone who tasted them wondered how I could make butter have the texture of a cookie, I took it as a compliment. If you've never made cookies before, start with these.

Makes 36 cookies

  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1. Put a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F.
2. In a large bowl, beat the butter and both sugars with an electric mixer on medium speed just until thoroughly blended, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the vanilla, then beat in the salt. On low speed, add the flour in two additions, beating just until incorporated.
3. Turn the dough out into an ungreased 9-by-13-inch baking pan and, with your fingertips and/or the back of a spoon, gently press it evenly over the bottom of the pan. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the shortbread is golden brown (the edges will be slightly darker); do not underbake. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 to 10 minutes.
4. With a sharp heavy knife, cut the shortbread, still in the pan, into 36 rectangles. Let cool completely before removing from the pan. (The shortbread can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.)

VERY SPECIAL FUDGY BROWNIES

After good friends surprised me with a three-pound slab of Scharffen Berger special "70% cacao bittersweet chocolate," I had what I needed to create what have become my all-time favorite brownies. I now make them almost weekly to give someone for one reason or another (chocolate can be both a celebration and a solace). And the recipe makes a lot, so I get to freeze a few for myself from each batch. The chocolate shards, or chunks, or chips—use your favorite—provide unexpected bursts of deep chocolate flavor. While the chocolate melts as the brownies bake, it does not dissolve into the batter, and if the brownies are not chilled (other than briefly, for easier cutting), the chocolate stays soft, almost gooey if you use chopped chocolate bars. For a different texture, though, you can chill the brownies thoroughly, and the chunks will be firm and...chunky.

For a slightly less intense version, omit the chopped chocolate (or chips). The plain brownies are very good cold. For more demure servings, cut these into one-inch squares—you'll have ninety-six little brownie bites.

Makes 48 brownies

  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 6 ounces high-quality unsweetened chocolate (such as Ghirardelli), coarsely chopped
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 7 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped or cut into shards about 1/4 inch wide by 1/2 inch long, or 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chunks or large semisweet chocolate chips

1. Put a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with foil, leaving an overhang on the two narrow ends.
2. Combine the butter, unsweetened chocolate, and 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate in a medium heavy saucepan and melt over low heat, stirring frequently until smooth. Remove from the heat.
3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and both sugars with an electric mixer on low speed just until smooth. Beat in the salt. Beat in the melted chocolate mixture, then beat in the vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the flour in two additions (the batter will be thick). Stir in the chopped chocolate.
4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 23 to 25 minutes, or until the top is set but still soft and the edges are puffed and just beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan; a toothpick inserted in the center will come out still gooey (be brave!—underbaking the brownies is one of the secrets to their fudgy texture). Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
5. For the neatest cuts, refrigerate the brownies for about 20 minutes before slicing. Using the foil, lift the brownies out of the pan. Carefully peel off the foil, and put the brownie slab on a cutting board. With a large sharp knife, cut the brownies into 48 squares. (The brownies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days; they can also be frozen, well wrapped, for up to 2 weeks.)


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