Spring Saffron Shortbread
April 10th, 2008
Although the temps are slightly chilly in Seattle, we are fortunate enough to have everything blooming — from the famous UW cherry blossoms to daffodils and tulips. The seeds of compassion are blooming in Seattle, too, as the Dalai Lama has arrived for a five-day visit; more on that below :)
I’ve been dying to make cookies using this tulip-shaped cutter we’ve had in our supplies for a while now. As soon as I saw the first tulip in my yard, I finally did it. Shortbread is one of those cookies that I love to eat, but never thought of baking. Recently I was going through a cookbook I received for my birthday last year and discovered a simple shortbread recipe. These cookies are my adaptation of a recipe from Nancy Silverton’s Pastries from the La Brea Bakery. With this I want to prove you can have beautiful food colors from totally natural ingredients. I will publish more posts in the future with more colors and flavors. Spring Saffron Shortbread deserves its very own alongside the lovely tulips from our yard!
Saffron provides the beautiful yellowish-orange color and gives your food the most amazing aroma. This combination of flavors was very much inspired by the Indian sweets I grew up eating. I added a bit of powdered almonds and pistachios, and the flavor was out of this world. These are soft, buttery, aromatic cookies with a salty bite — as a good shortbread should have. They are decorated with a saffron cardamom icing.
There is another reason I am featuring saffron. Saffron is the color worn by peaceful Tibetan monks. With the atrocities long going on and now flaring up in Tibet, with all the protests and now more violence, it is sad more is not being done internationally. The world needs to stand up! Even with the on-going turmoil, the Dalai Lama is here in Seattle for a five-day series of discussions, speeches, and more by the organization called Seeds of Compassion. The gathering will be webcasted in 24 different languages at their site, so if you will not be in Seattle for the next five days, be a part of it virtually. With thanks to my friends in the Tibetan community and at work, I will be able to attend parts of the gathering, and for the rest of it I, too will be logging in :)
Free Tibet & Peace to the Monks!
For the cookies, I used:
2 sticks unsalted butter, cold and cubed
1/4 tspn kosher salt
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour, sifted
a pinch of saffron
a handful of finely ground pistachio and almonds
1 tbspn milk
For the icing, I used:
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tbspn water (more or less based on the consistency you feel comfortable to drizzle with)
half a pinch of saffron
a pinch of ground cardamom
1 clean Ziploc® bag (a clear plastic, disposable bag, sandwich sized)
1. Cream the butter and salt for a couple minutes with a mixer.
2. Add the sugars and cream till the butter is soft and fluffy.
3. Add the sifted flour in a few different parts, mixing on low till all is combined.
4. Take a pinch of saffron in milk, and combine (mortar & pestle works the best here) till no strands are left; you’ll have a nice orange liquid — that is your natural food color! Add it to the cookie mix and mix till the color combines evenly.
5. Flatten the dough into a disc shape, wrap it air-tight in a plastic wrap, and chill for a couple hours.
6. Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C) when ready.
7. Take the dough out 5 minutes before you want to roll it out.
8. Roll the dough out into a 1/2″ thick sheet on a floured surface, and cut into it whatever shapes you like.
9. Place cut outs onto a baking sheet and bake for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until you see their edges starting to brown.
10. These cookies stay pretty light in color, so once the edges are done, take them out and cool.
11. Make the icing while your cookies cool. Combine sugar, water, cardamom, and saffron in a bowl, or directly in the Ziploc® as you prefer. I crushed the saffron with my hand, but did not melt it this time so I would see little specks of saffron in the icing!
12. Cut a tiny hole at an angle on one of the tips of the icing bag, and make sure there is no air before you close the bag. Once the cookies cool, decorate away, and enjoy!