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Mmmmmm Vanilla Shortbread.

For someone who claims to not be a baker...I sure have been doing a lot of baking lately. Maybe it's my new found love affair with yeast. Maybe it's the season. Or maybe I'm just turning over a new leaf. And you know what? Whatever the reason, I am just fine with it. More than fine with it, actually. While I still consider myself a much, MUCH better cook than baker, I'm thoroughly enjoying my foray into the flour arts! The only pants are definitely a bit tighter as of late. I know, I know...exercise helps. But I am the master of excuses and I'm just far too busy to take the time to work out [she says, clearing her throat]. I figure, a couple more weeks and I'll be chillin' on the sweets sector of the baked goods, so it'll all even itself out then. Right? As far as fresh baked bread way, no I ever giving that up. Never have, never will. But anyway, I digress. Back to talking about the fattening stuff. Cookies. Shortbread cookies. Vanilla Shortbread cookies to be exact. Gorgeously flecked with those little (worth their weight in gold) black seeds. One word. Meltinyourmouthdecadent.Vanilla Shortbread
from Forever Summer by Nigella Lawson

2/3 c. confectioners' sugar
1 3/4 c. AP flour
2/3 c. cornstarch
3/4 c. + 2 Tbs. very soft, unsalted butter
seeds from 1 vanilla bean
vanilla or other granulated sugar for sprinkling (or use decorating sugar like I did)

Preheat oven to 325° F.
Put the confectioners' sugar, flour and cornstarch into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade and give them a quick blitz (this saves you the sifting step). Add the seeds scraped from the vanilla bean and the butter. Process again until the soft mixture coheres and begins to form a ball, loosely clumping around the blade. Turn this out onto a jelly roll pan and press to form an even (as you can make it) layer, using fingers or the back of a spoon, or both. Can I just take this opportunity to ask what size, precisely, is a jelly roll pan? I googled it and found that a jelly roll pan is basically just a cookie sheet with sides. So, tell me Nigella, what size jelly roll pan should I use? Because...this dough does NOT fill my jelly roll pan. Hmmmm. No biggy, though...really. It's a pretty firm, press-in type dough, so I just sort of pressed and stopped about where I thought it looked right. Using the tip of a sharp knife (actually, I used a butter knife), cut the shortbread into fingers. Nigella makes 3 x 11 rows to equal 33...I made 3 x 5 rows to equal 15. Actually, I'll make them even smaller next time...because while delicious, they are rich and these were big fingers! Use the tines of a fork to make little holes in each marked-out biscuit; about 3 times diagonally. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, it will still be pale, but not doughy, and a tad golden around the edges. Remove pan from oven and let cool for 10 minutes or so, before removing, with a palette knife and your fingers, to a wire rack. Sprinkle with sugar and let cool completely before storing in a tightly lidded tin. These are simple and gorgeous...just look at the flecks of vanilla seeds! I bet they'd be superb if you dipped the end in a little chocolate, as well...but I seriously enjoy my shortbread as is. Totally worth the little pinch in the flesh of my least it seems that way while I'm eating one. This is my entry for the POTLUCK this week over at I Heart Cooking Clubs...won't you cook or bake up something by Nigella and join us?

*Update 12/26/10: I am sharing this with the 12 Day of Bloggie-mas.