Food Scoop: Bake jelly, shortbread treats

Whether they are being passed out as gifts, set out for Santa on Christmas Eve or offered up at the holiday party, cookies are trademarks of the holiday season.

Along with the Russian teacakes, peanut butter cookies and chocolate reindeer that I’ll encounter this season, I’m looking forward to jammy shortbread. Buttery and not overly sweet, with a touch of fruit from the jam, shortbread pairs itself perfectly with a glass of milk.

Now, let’s talk about jams and jellies. In my experience, people have strawberry, apricot or maybe grape stashed in their refrigerators. With jammy shortbread, I like something with a little bit of tang. For me, that’s my mother’s homemade crabapple-red raspberry jam, which brings together the tartness of crabapples and the bright, juicy flavors of raspberry. Or maybe this year I’ll try a Juneberry-rhubarb jam, another homemade batch. If you’ve got a favorite jam, try it out or a couple different flavors, one in each jam stripe. I bet they’ll all be delicious.

That’s one of the things I love about baking is that there are always changes that can be made to suit your needs. If I want to use lime instead of lemon, most of the time it tastes fine. No buttermilk? Plain yogurt will do. If I don’t have the right pan and I need to bake shortbread a little longer, it’s still tasty. I’ve had some epic fails but for the most part, things turn out well and my tummy ends up happily full.

Jammy Shortbread

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
½ tsp. almond extract
2 ½ cups flour
½ tsp. baking powder
Your choice of jam

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg and almond extract. When the mixture is smooth, stir in the flour and the baking powder.

This is when your choice of baking pan becomes important. The jelly roll pan is the perfect size (16 ¾ by 11 ¾ inches) for a double batch of dough. The dough should be spread evenly, about a half inch thick.

Once the dough is spread out, wet a finger and make a groove for the jam. I typically place them about two inches apart, on a diagonal. Don’t go all the way to the edge of the pan, as the jam will stick to the pan if you do.

Fill the grooves with your choice of jam. Raspberry or apricots are often top choices.

Bake for 12 minutes. Be careful – they may need to bake longer, sometimes as much as 30 minutes. When they are baked through, the edges will be pulling away from the pan. Alternatively, try sticking a toothpick in the shortbread. If it’s done, the toothpick will be clean when it is removed. Let it cool. Slice shortbread into your preferred size, dish it up and enjoy.

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