Food Art: A Shortbread Cookie Decorated with Sweet and Salty Treats

Being a passionate baker, I enjoy all fascets of baking;  sweets especially appeal to me. Wherever I go, if food is offered, I  sample  it, from cakes, to cookies, pies, tarts, scones and most sweet goodies. However, since I’m a visual artist too,  I have fun when I bring art into the kitchen.  This  idea has been fun to  haphazardly discover as I approach a recipe. I  think this idea parallels what cake decorating is to gung ho cake bakers!

This idea surfaced after I had  purchased  several bags of mini candies for just this purpose, but at the time I had not realized the extent of the possibilities that lay before me, and it felt important as I was creating this dish.  Ifyou are a cookie and candy lover, as well as someone who likes a salty bite now and then, this may be the holiday cookie idea for you!

And remember, that these are my ideas, but  you can create your own spectacular art and a delicious and pretty cookies too, possibly with just what’s in your refrigerator and pantry!  Let your mind wander and see what catches your eye!

INGREDIENTS

3/4 cup softened brown sugar, packed

1 cup butter, softened – salted or unsalted

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups flour

1  1/4 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup Nutella, softened for 15 seconds in the microwave before adding it atop the slightly warm chocolate.

2 cups, (about)  broken candy or mini candy pieces,  such as   Heath bar, Junior Mints, Reese’s miniature cups (white) cut in half, Twix, cashews, or other favorite nuts, chocolate covered raisenetes,  chocolate malted milk balls, 1/2  cup shredded sweet or unsweetened coconut flakes.  (Optional – 5-8 mini salted pretzels, or a few crushed  4 part graham crackers).  If you use the pretzels, I suggest cutting back on the candy.  In addition, don’t overdo your add ons, aside from main ones–chocolate and Nutella–otherwise too many ingredients make a confusing mess.

PROCESS

1   In a stand mixer, add the butter and the brown sugar  mix 3-4 minutes on low, until fluffy and soft. (Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.) Add the flour  and salt gradually and at a slow speed,  in about 5 portions.   Do this process by a hand held electric mixer if you do not have a stand mixer or even do it by hand, but add an extra few minutes if you mix the flour and salt by hand.  Toward the end, add the vanilla.  The dough will come together easily

2   Pat the dough,  flat and even in either an 8 x 8 inch, or 9 x 9 inch  greased metal pan;  Make sure to pat it into the corners well too. Bake until faintly brown, about 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven. Wait about 3 minutes to let the crust cool  slightly. Turn the oven off. Spread the chocolate chips atop the crust, put the pan back in the oven for 1-2 minutes.  Remove the pan.  Wait 1-2 minutes than gently spread the very warm chips around with the back of a spoon or spatula. A minute or two later, randomly, but carefully spread the Nutella all over the melted  chocolate layer.

3   For the candy layer, do it while the chocolate/nutella layer is still warm and will easily grip the surface of the candy or pretzel. Overall, you want a nice thick layer of sweets. Ideally, this layer should reach about 3/4″- 1″ high, above the melted  Nutella and chocolate chips. Arrange the candy anyway you like.  Make it as even as possible, pressing gently into the Nutella. When done,  flatten this final layer ever so gently with a wide spatula. If you wish, sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, from on high, over the whole pan, to add a faint tasting salty bite.

4   Put the pan in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours to chill. Cut anyway you like, in 15 or 30 small pieces, or perhaps larger squares, but remember that this cookie/candy snack is high on the  sweet scale!

 

 

 

 

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