Ever since my visit to Salt Lake's Les Madeleines I've been craving lavender shortbread. After poking around in my cookbooks I found a recipe by the reliable Laurie Colwin and gathered my ingredients. But I was out of powdered sugar. Blast! I actually said that, blast. This is what happens after four years of trying not to swear around my son.
Anyway, with such a short list of ingredients I figured it was pretty important to use powdered sugar, not ordinary granulated sugar. There wasn't time to go back to the store. Then it hit me -- the coffee grinder. Could I make my own powdered sugar?
Since we actually use the coffee grinder to grind coffee, I dusted it out well first. Then I poured in a handful of rice and ground that up to thoroughly clean the grinder. Since I didn't want whole lavender blossoms in my shortcake I ground it together with the sugar (at about 2 tablespoons lavender to 1 cup sugar) -- and it worked! My own powdered sugar.
My plan was to make a few shortcakes and package them in pretty tins for my family; next time I'll buy the tins first and then shape the shortcakes to fit. Sigh. Eight-inch tins were nowhere to be found in the neighborhood. I can make my own powdered sugar but I can't smelt my own custom-shaped tins. Great recipe, though.
Laurie Colwin's Classic Shortbread
1. Cream 1 stick of butter with 1/4 cup confectioner's (powdered) sugar. Add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.
2. Work in 3/4 cup all-purpose flour sifted with 1/4 cup rice flour, 1/8 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/8 teaspoon salt. (Use 1 cup flour if you cannot find rice flour.)
3. Pat the dough into an 8-inch circle on an ungreased cookie sheet. This recipe gives you a very soft, delicate dough, so be patient with it. Before baking, score the dough, making 6 wedges, and mark the edge with the tines of a fork.
4. Bake the shortbread in a preheated 375-degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until the edge is golden brown.
5. While the shortbread is still warm, cut it into the wedges with a sharp knife.
I found that when the butter was slightly melted (from being placed in a bowl that was hot from the dishwasher) the shortbread's surface came out a bit smoother without seeming to affect the quality of the texture... so make of that what you will.