photos by Janis Jean Photography –
The holidays are often a time to flex your culinary muscles and impress guests with some homemade offerings that go beyond the ordinary. It’s also the time of year when we have firm favourites – dishes that it just wouldn’t be the holidays without. What camp do you fall in? Tried and true, or experiment with something new?
We threw down the gauntlet and Amber Isles, owner of RockCoast Confections, and mom Roxana Reid were willing to take on the challenge. The pair squared off against each other with that essential holiday baking offering: shortbread! There’s nothing wrong with a little kitchen rivalry as long as it’s in the name of delicious. Join us for a Seaside Magazine Shortbread Showdown!
Sweet or Savoury? Which will you try? Whatever way your tastes lie, we know Amber’s and Roxana’s takes on this holiday favourite will both be a wonderful addition to your holiday season!
Amber Isles: Believe it or not, before I got into the chocolate biz I was more of a savoury gal. At the holidays I would make sweets for friends and family but personally, would tuck into a round of cheese before reaching for a cookie or chocolate. I can’t say that’s still true now owning a chocolate shop (haha), but I still will devour an entire plate of these melt-in-your-mouth savoury cheese shortbreads.
These biscuits are so versatile and can add a wonderful element to any holiday charcuterie board. My favourite variations are spicy or herb, but you can be creative with whatever you have available in your kitchen. You can also make them into all sorts of shapes to fit any season.
Here is the recipe for my two favourites:
Savoury Cheese Shortbread
1 cup butter – room temperature
1 tub (230 g) MacLaren’s Imperial Cheese
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 heaping tbsp fresh thyme (option 1)
½ – 1 tsp cayenne or 2 tsp hot sauce
to fit your preference (option 2)
1½ cups flour
4 cups puffed rice cereal
Cream the butter and cheese together. Mix in Worcestershire sauce. Mix in thyme OR cayenne/hot sauce. Taste to make sure you have added correct quantity for your liking. Stir in flour and then puffed rice; mix just enough to combine.
Place mixture onto a lightly-floured surface and roll out dough with a floured rolling pin. I prefer to roll onto a piece of parchment paper to make removing the shapes easier. Choose a cookie cutter that is not too intricate, as the rice crisps can be a little challenging to cut through with the cookie cutter.
Roll to approximately ¼-inch thick and cut out shapes. Lay them onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 350° for 15 minutes (length of bake time can also be adjusted to your preference in finished product).
Roxana Reid: When I was a child growing up in Victoria my grandmother, Daisy, lived not far from us and I always enjoyed visiting her. She had a cute little house with a lovely garden and we would lawn bowl in her backyard. I loved it best at Christmastime because she would always let me help her bake. She would make scones, Christmas cakes and Christmas pudding (which she always put money in).
But my very favourite to make with her were shortbread cookies. I loved the aroma in the kitchen when we baked. When the cookies were baked and just a little warm, I would get to enjoy one. DELICIOUS. Shortbread is still my favourite Christmas treat to make and eat; it brings back memories of my childhood and my grandmother. After all, what is Christmas without shortbread?
I am very fortunate that I can create delectable treats with my daughter, Amber, who is an amazing young woman! We had so much fun with this bake-off.
Cranberry White Chocolate Whipped Shortbread
1 ¼ cups softened butter
1 cup sifted icing sugar
2 ¼ cups sifted flour
½ cup chopped dried cranberries
½ cup chopped white chocolate
Cream the butter and sugar together. Mix in the flour and beat for 8-10 minutes. Fold in the dried cranberries and white chocolate.
Drop from a teaspoon onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet, placing them approximately 2″ apart. Dip a fork in flour and press the cookies down to flatten them.
Bake at 350° for approximately 15-17 minutes until the bottoms are lightly browned.
(The dried cranberries and white chocolate can be eliminated to make a plain shortbread cookie.)