Sugared shortbread




One of the best factoids I’ve learned so far in baking is why shortening is called shortening.

In short <groan>…. Gluten proteins need water to develop into long, strong gluten strands, which is what we want in yeasted bread. Fat acts as a kind of raincoat and prevents those gluten proteins from absorbing the water they need to develop into those long, strong strands. Shortening, or any other fat, keeps gluten strands short, which in turn means the resulting baked good is tender and crumbly.

Thus, shortbread, which is full (full!) of butter and no water, results in a tender and crumbly texture.

This shortbread recipe originated with a New Jersey personal chef and professional food writer, Amy Casey, who submitted it to the NYTimes in 2012 when the Times invited readers to submit their favorite cookie recipes. You can get Casey’s recipe here on her website.

I just spent a chunk of the weekend testing multiple batches of it. It’s a keeper recipe.

What makes it so different from other shortbread recipes is that Casey’s recipe uses white rice flour. In my shortbread weekend marathon, I found that brown rice flour or even a mixture work just as well.

And, if you want to get wild and crazy, brown the butter.

In my photo, the cookie on the left was made per the recipe: white rice flour, melted butter, white granulated sugar topping. The cookie on the right was made with brown rice flour, browned butter and raw sugar.

I also made one other change to the recipe process. A minute or two before a pan was technically done, I pulled it out of the oven and sprinkled on the sugar, then returned it to the oven. I found that doing so set the sugar topping better.


Gruyère-olive bread

IMG_4432Yeah, it’s 110-ish in Arizona, but turn on your oven anyway and make this easy-peasy savory quickbread. We’re eating though our third and fourth loaves just this week.

The only hassle: shredding the Gruyère.

Also, if you’re an olive hater, don’t automatically shun this recipe.

The original recipe is from the New York Times cooking database, which now is behind a pay wall unless you’re a Times subscriber. Here’s my version.


  • 210 grams (1 3/4 cups) all-purpose flour (OK to use half whole-wheat flour)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup plain milk or buttermilk
  • 4 ounces Gruyère cheese
  • 3 tablespoons pitted, chopped kalamata olives



  1. Grate the cheese. While you prepare the other ingredients, put the grated cheese in the freezer.
  2. Preheat oven to 350F.
  3. In one bowl, whisk all the dry ingredients together.
  4. Add the grated cheese and chopped olives to the dry ingredients and toss until incorporated.
  5. In another bowl, mix the mayo, egg and milk until smooth.
  6. Fold the mayo-egg-milk mixture into the dry-ingredients-cheese-olive mixture just until incorporated.
  7. Scrape into a greased loaf pan. Smooth the top (unless you like a rugged, craggy cowboy look).
  8. Bake for 40 minutes. Cool in pan for about 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the loaf to make sure it releases from the pan. Cool loaf completely on a rack.