Vanilla shortbread with a glossy glazing of strawberry jam. It was covered with another layer of shortbread, baked, cut into hearts and lightly dusted with snowy sugar.
But then my hesitant heart, full of memories and old tunes, got in the way. I wanted to send it to him but couldn't.
Don't worry. Co-workers devoured it in minutes. And now you can, too, if you're so inclined. Bake it for yourself... or someone else you love:
Vanilla Shortbread with Strawberry Jam
2 cups (2 sticks/16 T.) salted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
3 1/3 cups all purpose flour, fluffed up
1 heaping t. baking powder
1 T. kosher salt
2 large eggs
½ vanilla bean (or 1 ½ T. vanilla extract)
1 ½ cups strawberry jam
¼ cup powdered sugar, for dusting
Preheat oven to 325° F. In large, cold bowl, work butter and sugar together with wooden spoon. Measure flour and dump on top of butter/sugar mixture into a cloudy mountain. (Now we're baking.) Add baking powder and salt on top of flour. Toss dry ingredients together lightly with clean fingers, then use wooden spoon to begin incorporating flour into butter and sugar. When barely coming together, add eggs to the bowl. Break yolks with wooden spoon. If you’re using vanilla extract, pour it in with the eggs and mix together. If you’re using a vanilla bean, thoroughly incorporate eggs into dough, then scrape the seeds from half the vanilla bean and mix in now. Dough should be a bit shaggy. It’s okay.
Divide dough in two equal parts and scrape half the mixture from the bowl. Press onto a sheet pan. (I use my trusty Pampered Chef baking stone to bake this recipe and always have. If you don’t have a pizza stone or rimmed stone baking sheet, get you one soon. If you don’t have one, use a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper or silpat. But just know your ‘bread won’t be as tender.) Lightly press dough onto sheet to a 1/2 inch thickness, using a glass or rolling pin if necessary. Top dough with your favorite jam. (Strawberry and raspberry were popular at henrybella’s.)
Roll remaining half of dough out on a lightly floured counter or board to a ½ inch thickness. Transfer onto jam-glazed half. (You’ll probably ace this, but I always manage to tear the dough and have to patch my top with jagged dough pieces.) It’s okay if the top cracks, jam oozes through, or you need to piece the top to cover all the jam. This is very forgiving.
Bake for 15 minutes, or until sides just begin to turn golden and dough looks firm. (This may be 17 or 18 minutes for some.) Remove from oven and let cool. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters, transfer to parchment paper, and dust with a shower of powdered sugar.
Give to or enjoy with someone special. That’s what it’s all about.