Meanwhile…Smoky Shortbread Cookies

A funny thing happened at my pre-op appointment. Well okay, not really all that funny. Did you know that anesthesiologists are not entirely keen on giving general anesthesia to people with horrible colds? True story. So. My poor tendon has been postponed until early April.

A few things have happened since then.  First, I started researching recipes that are specific to the Commonwealth of Virginia and unsurprisingly most of them are ham-based. Somehow, this led me to the determination that I need a smokehouse in my back yard. I’m plotting with an incredibly talented friend who has actually agreed to build the thing for me. I think I promised to pay her in ham. I hope she’s patient.

Which then led to another decision. One that involves becoming a traveling pit mistress at the local festivals–and Western New York is ground zero for festivals. Lilacs, grapes, Greeks, art, wine, Riesling (yes, we have a festival dedicated to just Reisling), ad infinitum. If you want a festival, we can set you up. And these festivals need barbecue. For all the things this part of the world does well, smoke isn’t one of them.

I have to say that this whole chasing smoke thing is kind of unexpected given my general pyrophobia. Not even kidding about that; I have an incredibly healthy respect for open flame. But also true is that I have more fun slaving over the smoker and get more satisfaction from creating the perfect bark, than anything else I do in my culinary life–and my culinary life is pretty fun and satisfying before that. I attribute this to my Texas roots.

Anyway. For right now, the snow is almost melted, I’ve had the first round of smoking (chicken thighs over pecan wood), and I’m participating in one of those “pay it forward” things that circulate on Facebook now and then. Today’s cookies are part of that.

My friend Martha has had a long-standing love affair with all things bacon. Before bacon got hot, Martha was there. Now that it’s cooling as a trend, Martha is still there (but glad to see the prices coming down). These are for her.

My goal was to make a smoky shortbread (I might have to try smoking butter next time…I’ve smoked cream, so it can’t be all that different. Right?), rather than a porky one. These fit that bill nicely–try using a Virginia-style bacon for the fatty element. It’s all smoke with none of the sugars that we find in more conventional bacons. Since they’re a gift, I dipped them in chocolate and sprinkled on some candied bacon (or “pig candy” as Martha calls it).

Smoky Shortbread Cookies

(Makes some amount that is entirely dependent on how you shape them)

Ingredients

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup rendered bacon fat (cold)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp vanilla

2 1/4 cups flour

Instructions

  • Preheat your oven to 325º
  • Cream the fats together until they’re blended smoothly
  • Cream in the sugar until well-mixed
  • Stir in the vanilla
  • Add in the flour 1/2 cup at a time until all of it is incorporated. Your dough should be fairly stiff but still pliable

    IMG_7811

    Shortbread is dense–almost like a biscuit dough.

  • Roll the dough to about 1/2″
  • Cut into whatever shapes your soul demands (I did rectangles for the gift cookies; the rest were just kind of a tasty hack job that I cut out around the remaining dough)
  • Line a pan with parchment paper; place cookies on the parchment paper leaving about 1/4″ between them
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes (mine took the full 20 due to having one very full pan.  Which you can do with these because they don’t spread much)
  • Let cool on the parchment before dipping into the chocolate* and adding the candied bacon
IMG_7821

My 13 year old would live on this stuff if I let him.

Candied Bacon

4 rashers of Virginia-style smoked bacon (I get mine from the Mennonite market)

1 Tbs brown sugar

  • Preheat the oven to 350º
  • Place bacon rashers on parchment-covered pan
  • Bake for about 15 minutes–until just before it starts browning
  • Add 1 tsp brown sugar to each rasher–use your fingers to distribute it across the whole piece
  • Bake another 5-10 minutes, until bacon is brown and sugar is caramelized
  • Let cool before using
  • Mince the cold bacon
When you're ready, start by chiffonading (cutting it into thin strips) the bacon.

When you’re ready, start by chiffonading (cutting into thin strips) the bacon.

Next, cut your teeny tiny strips into teeny tiny bits.

Next, cut your teeny tiny strips into teeny tiny bits.

  • Dip one end of the cookie into melted chocolate*, then sprinkle with the bacon

Notes

I used a mix of 2/3 cup milk chocolate chips and 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips.

If the dipping and chiffonading is more than you want to deal with, these are very good plain. If you’re like me and prefer sweets to be just a little bit salty, sprinkle a bit of coarse salt on the tops just before baking and leave off the chocolate and bacon bits. Perfection.