Ever Tried Hungarian Shortbread?

How did this week’s recipe go for you? I think I found my new go-to bar recipe. To say these were a hit at my house would be an understatement. I think my husband’s diet is in serious jeopardy. Luckily, I visited my mom on Friday and left some bars with her and Dad. He just posted some pictures of the bars on his Facebook page. Recipe requests immediately followed. We told them to check out the blog on Tuesday.

There are two parts: rhubarb jam and the bars themselves. I usually do the recipe as written, but not this time. I do a lot of canning each summer. As usual, I made way more jam than we can ever use. So, I skipped the rhubarb and chose two homemade jams instead. I used blackberry and apricot. One note: the shortbread is very sweet, so pick something with some tang.

I noticed that some of my fellow bloggers did research and found that traditional Hungarian Shortbread recipes tell you to bake the first layer of dough before topping it with jam. This is one place where laziness paid off. I didn’t par-bake the first layer and mine turned out fine. Let’s hear it for sloth!

The recipe is pretty easy. Mix a pound of unsalted butter (this isn’t diet food, folks!), sugar and egg yolks; add flour, baking powder and salt. I also added some vanilla (sue me) and some almond extract (excellent with the apricot jam). Then, divide the dough, wrap it, and put it in the freezer for about half an hour. One note about the dough texture: my dough was pretty soft and a little sticky. After the time in the freezer, it was hard around the edges, but still soft in the middle. I think that’s pretty ideal. I read online that some DIYers had problems shredding the dough. Too long in the freezer, and it got rock-hard.

Use a box grater to shred the first dough ball into the pan. I pressed the dough down, but not too much. You should still be able to see the outline of the shreds. At this point, it looked disconcertingly like swiss cheese. I spread half with the blackberry jam, and half with apricot. I used a half pint of each jam, which is twice as much as the recipe called for. I know, I’m really off the reservation this week. Look out! She’s going crazy, right?

Top the jam with the other half of the dough and press it down (gently!) My husband stole a couple of shreds of dough. He said they were tasty. I shooed him out of the kitchen. Still looks like swiss cheese to me. I baked this for about 50 minutes, until the top was a uniform golden brown. The recipe called for 40 minutes, but my oven is always slow. I didn’t have any problem with the middle being soft.

One more tip: put a foil sling in the bottom of your pan before you bake it. Not only will it be easier to cut perfect bars, but cleanup will be a breeze. They have a great website, well worth the subscription price. Fold an 18-inch length of foil lengthwise to an 8-inch width. Fit the foil into the length of a 13 by 9-inch baking pan, pushing it into the corners and up the sides of the pan; allow the excess to overhang the pan edges. Cut a 14-inch length of foil and fit it into the width of the pan, perpendicular to the first sheet (if using extra-wide foil, fold the second sheet lengthwise to a 12-inch width). Spray with nonstick cooking spray.

This is another recipe that welcomes improvisation. I’m going to try replacing the jam with cinnamon filling. I also think that bittersweet chocolate would taste great in between these layers. How about caramel and pecans? Also, these bars more than pass the coffee test. Who needs the half-stale pastries at Starbuck’s? I’ll take Hungarian Shortbread every time.