I am convinced now: the drop-dead easiest dessert to make isn't the brownie, after all. It is shortbread. I know, I know. Shortbread has some of the same intimidating qualities as a pie crust. But there is none of that taunting and sinister rolling, lifting, crimping, and shrinking which is so frustrating when you are laying a foundation for all those wet and wonderful fillings which have such a savvy knack for sogging up the cement that cradles them. It is far more difficult to toughen up a shortbread because you work it so little; all it needs is a brief fiddling with the fingers, a pressing into a pan, and a few nicks with a knife and fork. The result is a golden brown disk which crumbles and melts in the mouth without the risk of tugging your teeth on it.
Chinese five-spice powder provides a very subtle warmth that compliments the equally gentle nuttiness to offer a treat that can be a savory, a sweet, or both. It would make as much a rich foil to an airy cheese mousse as to a sticky drizzle of caramel. But I am quite happy to enjoy it plain, as I contemplate a hunch that it's got just the right stuff for a very fine, fuss-free pie crust, indeed.
Chinese Five-Spice Peanut Shortbread - Adapted from the Peanut Butter Shortbreads recipe from The Peanut Institute
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
1/2 cup salted butter, softened, but not mushy to the point of melting when touched
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat oven 300 ° F
In a large bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients. Add butter and peanut butter to dry mixture; there is no need to mix them together first. Working quickly, rub and toss to distribute fat until mixture is the texture of coarse meal. Drizzle with extract and briefly work in.
Transfer meal to a 10-inch, ungreased springform pan. Press meal evenly into pan, making sure not to leave the edges too thin. With a very sharp knife, partially score dough into 8 even wedges. Prick dough all over with fork tines, or for a decorative touch, press a dried star anise into dough. Bake on center rack of oven for about 45 minutes, or until lightly browned. Do not insert a knife to check for doneness; shortbread is very fragile, before and after baking. Remove from oven and open latch of springform pan to release shortbread. Do not remove it from the pan bottom. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before very carefully cutting through the scoring to separate the wedges. Please expect some crumbles and perhaps a crack or two. Allow to fully cool before serving.
This recipe is for Jaya of Desi Soccer Mom, hosting My Legume Love Affair 34, and will be accepting latecomer recipes through May 3. Jaya is busy juggling many tasks, and will present her round-up as soon as possible. Smitha of Kannada Cuisine will be welcoming your great recipes for MLLA 35. Please stay tuned for her announcement.
Thank you always for joining in My Legume Love Affair!
Been There, Done That ~
King Arthur's "Magic in the Middle's" Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies
African Peanut Yam Soup
Lemon Curd Shortbread
Other People's Eats ~
Peanut Butter and Blueberry Shortbread Bars from Lisa's Kitchen
Peanut Butter and Chocolate Shortbread Bars from Une Gamine dans la Cuisine
Perfect Peanut Sauce from Cooking with Amy