Savory Loaded Shortbread Cookies

photo of Savory Loaded Shortbread Cookies from the cookbook

Short(bread) Debate
Now that Christmas has come and gone and you find yourself with a little extra time, I offer up something to occupy your brain while you stare out the window in a post-holiday stupor. Does a cookie need to be sweet in order to call it a cookie?

There are plenty of examples of so-called cookies that are so borderline in their sweetness—you could call them more of a cracker or biscuit than a cookie. Shortbread is the perfect one. All you need to make shortbread is flour and some sort of fat. Typically, that fat is butter which gives the shortbread most of its flavor. Sure, there is sugar added but the overall taste leans more towards butter than sugar. And yet, most people would still consider it a cookie.

Shortbread gets its name from the crumbly texture. The fat, usually butter, inhibits the formation of long wheat protein (gluten) strands when mixed with flour thus its famous melt-in-your-mouth tenderness.

So, by that reasoning, if all you need to make a crumbly cookie is fat, who is to say you couldn’t do it with, say, bacon fat? You would still have the same occurrence with the lack of gluten development. And, in theory, the same texture. But, does the bacon fat automatically mean the shortbread is now more of a cracker?

These are the kinds of things that run through my head at weird times and have people avoiding me at parties. Or perhaps I have been watching too much Lessons in Chemistry

Either way, I’m whipping up some of these Savory Loaded Shortbread Cookies if only to start the debate.

Savory Loaded Shortbread Cookies
Adapted from Cookies: The New Classics by Jesse Szewczyk
Yields 24 Cookies

Cheddar cheese, fresh chives, and bacon combine in this savory cookie. It takes full advantage of all the flavors of a stuffed baked potato by swapping a buttery shortbread base for the standard russet.

They make a wonderful appetizer that is infinitely easier to manage than a baked potato.

6 ounces bacon
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup grated sharp cheddar
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick butter
1 large egg
3 tablespoons finely chopped chives

Line a plate with paper towels and set aside.

Prep your ingredients
Finely chop the bacon and cut the butter into cubes

Cook the bacon
Place a nonstick pan over medium heat. Cook the bacon until the bacon is crispy and dark brown, stirring often to prevent burning. Transfer the bacon to the prepared plate to drain using a slotted spoon. Allow the bacon to cool.

Make the dough
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, combine the flour, grated cheese, paprika, and salt. Process until well combined and there are no long strands of cheese remaining (about 10 to 15 seconds). Add the butter and egg and process until a smooth soft dough forms.

Add the bacon and chives
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead in the chives and bacon. Divide the dough in half and transfer each portion to a large sheet of plastic wrap or parchment paper. Form the dough into a log 1-1/2 to 2 inches in diameter and about 6 inches long.

Chill the dough
Gently wrap each one and chill in the freezer for one hour.

Prep the oven
Preheat the oven to 350º F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or nonstick baking mat.

Form the cookies
Using a sharp knife, slice each log into 1/2-inch-thick slices (about 12 per log). Arrange the slices on the baking sheet with about 1-inch space between them.

Bake the cookies
Bake for 18 to 23 minutes, or until the tops of the cookies are lightly browned. Switch the baking sheet back to front about halfway through.

Allow the cookies to cool
Let cool completely on the baking sheet. Store in an airtight container when completely cool.


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