The Great GFS Bake Off is back from spring break and it's Biscuit Week! So brew a pot of tea, coffee, or cocoa, and let's get baking (and remember, biscuits are cookies to folks on this side of the pond)!
Before we get to this week's recipes, Geo Decas O'Donnell, our Bake Off master of ceremonies, has answered two pressing questions that have come up among our contestants:
What are the 'rules' regarding what you bake?
We're working with master recipes, such as the quick bread from the last challenge, recipes that are highly adaptable to whatever is (or isn't) in your pantry and to your taste preferences. (It's probably more accurate to call them "techniques.") So adapt away! Let the recipe guide and inspire you! If you like muffins not quick loaf, oatmeal cookies not shortbread, are vegan or gluten-free—you do you!
What is the schedule/timeline?
We'll post challenges on Tuesday, and you'll have until the following Monday to submit photos of your entry to Geo at email@example.com. We hope this provides a fun screen-free Wednesday activity or something to do over the weekend.
Please submit all biscuit entries by Monday, April 13!
If, while you are baking, you have questions or want some community, please join the Bake Off Chat Room!
This week, we are offering two recipes* in case you don't have eggs readily available:
SHORTBREAD or (FILL-IN-THE-BLANK) COOKIES! Fill-in-the-blank because maybe you have chocolate chips or raisins or pretzels or the crumbles at the bottom of a bag of potato chips? Whatever you have, throw 'em in!
2 cups/250 grams all-purpose flour
⅔ cup/150 grams granulated sugar
¾ teaspoon fine salt
2 sticks/1 cup/226 grams cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch chunks
- Heat oven to 325 degrees. Pulse together flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Add butter and pulse to fine crumbs. Pulse a few more times until some of the crumbs start to come together, but don't overprocess; the dough should be somewhat crumbly. (You can also mix the dough in a bowl using two knives or a pastry cutter.)
- Press dough into an even layer in an ungreased 8- or 9-inch-square baking pan, or a 9-inch pie pan. Prick dough all over with a fork. Bake until golden brown, about 35-40 minutes for the 9-inch square or pie pan, 45-50 minutes for the 8-inch. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Cut into squares, bars, or wedges while still warm
Here are nine variations for the master shortbread recipe above:
- Scottish Shortbread: Use 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup white rice flour.
- Tender Shortbread: Substitute confectioners' sugar for the granulated sugar, and 1/3 cup cornstarch for 1/3 cup of flour.
- Vanilla Bean Shortbread: Split a vanilla bean in half lengthwise and use the back of a knife to scrape out the pulp. Pulse the pulp into the flour-sugar mixture before adding butter. Or add up to 1 teaspoon vanilla extract with the butter.
- Citrus Shortbread: Add 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon, lime or orange zest with the flour. Add up to 1 teaspoon orange blossom water with the butter if desired. These are classic with poppy seeds.
- Nut Shortbread: Grind 1/2 cup toasted nuts in the food processor with the flour before combining with remaining ingredients.
- Spice or Seed Shortbread: Add up to 1 teaspoon spices, like ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg or cardamom, or seeds like caraway or anise. Or add up to 3 tablespoons poppy or sesame seeds.
- Brown or Maple Sugar Shortbread: Substitute 1/3 cup light or dark brown sugar or maple sugar for the granulated. This yields a slightly softer shortbread.
- Cornmeal or Whole Wheat Shortbread: Substitute up to 1/2 cup cornmeal or whole wheat flour for 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour. Season with spices, seeds, citrus or rosemary if desired.
- Buckwheat Shortbread: Substitute up to 1/3 cup buckwheat flour for 1/3 cup of all-purpose flour.
CAUTIONARY NOTE: Be careful about adding liquid to the dough; any more than one tablespoon could interfere with the texture.
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups/12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips or whatever you have in your pantry or a mix of things
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
- Heat oven to 375. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract in large mixing bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips, nuts, or whatever other "kitchen sink" ingredients you're using. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.
- Bake for 9-11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.
* The shortbread recipe (and variations) come from Melissa Clark at The New York Times, and the chocolate chip recipe is the Tollhouse Cookie recipe because what other recipe is there?