More than desserts

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Summer shortbread cookies with baked-in fruits

The temperature is going up and down, at least in Illinois, and when it has recently dropped to comfortable 75 F, I decided to turn the oven on and bake a summer version of my easy shortbread cookies. I usually make them plain and simple and they taste great, but the summer desserts should be vibrant and playful, so I topped each cookie with a slice of fruit 🍓🥝🍋 or sprinkled them with red and white currants. They are fun both for adults and kids and perfect for summer parties.

Making our own cookies has yet another advantage: we know what ingredients have been used. I try not to use anything artificial like: sprinkles, food coloring, artificial flavors or frosting. In my recipes, I also adjust the amount of sugar to suit my taste, using less than the original recipes call for. Besides, the commercially baked sweets may contain inexpensive, unhealthy fats and preservatives that prolong their shelf life, but are harmful for our health.

So, instead of going to a bakery to buy cookies or other sweets, bring the bakery home and make your own. Even if you don’t bake often and feel out of it, don’t be intimidated – baking is not just for experts, anybody can do it! It’s a fun activity and a great outlet for creative expression.

Baking keeps you in the present moment: you have to measure ingredients, prepare the dough, shape it or cut it into shapes. That requires focus and concentration. Baking process doesn’t leave much room for ruminating over your thoughts, so it helps reduce stress and worrying. It also allows you to do something productive to share with others. And offering someone a delicious pastry is as much comforting to the recipient as the one who is offering. Let’s roll up our sleeves then!

 

The toppings include sliced apricots, kiwi fruit, lime and red and white currants.

For these cookies, I used a shortbread dough recipe, called pâte sablée in French. It’s very easy to follow and popular in France, famous for the best desserts in the world. Pâte sablée is crisp and very suitable for shortbread cookies. The name literally means “sandy”. It is a classic French shortcrust pastry dough used to create a shell of any tart, including the savory ones, but then, of course, without sugar. With that dough, you can make cookies in a flash and they will as quickly disappear from the serving plate.

Ingredients:

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 egg white
  • 2 sticks of butter, preferably European style, softened and cut into small pieces
  • 3 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp green matcha powder, optional
  • fresh apricots, kiwi fruit, lime, red or white currants, sour cherries, berries, to garnish
  • parchment paper
  • cookie cutters

Set the oven to 375 F. In the meantime, slice apricots, peeled kiwi fruit and lime and remove currants from their stems. Set aside.

In a large bowl cream butter, sugar and salt. When well combined and fluffy add yolks – one at a time- and 1/2 egg white. Combine them well, add vanilla extract. Continue blending the ingredients until smooth, then gradually add flour, 1/2 cup at a time, blending it well with the mixture.

On a table or countertop place a sheet of parchment paper and transfer the dough from the bowl. Flatten the dough with the hands and cover with another sheet of parchment paper of the same size. Roll out the dough until about 1/4 inch thick.

Cut out cookies in shapes of your choice – I used a simple round cookie cutter, but other shapes will work as well. Remove the dough from between the cookies, place a slice of fruit on top of each cookie and slightly press on the fruit. Transfer the cookies with the parchment paper to a flat baking sheet. Repeat until all dough is used up.

Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes and up to 2 hours. Transfer to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes.

When cookies are ready, you can sprinkle more sugar on top of them. However, the baking brings up the sweetness in the fruits, so it may not be necessary. The recipe will yield about 24 cookies, depending on the size of the cutters.

Note: For the green cookies I added 1 tbsp green matcha powder to about 1/8 of the dough mixing it in until fully blended and even in color 💖.

Matcha offers many health benefits: it contains catechins, cancer-fighting antioxidants, improves concentration, encourages weight loss and may lower blood pressure.

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