Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Way the Cookie Crumbles

I am becoming a shortbread connoisseur.  I don't know how many other shortbread connoisseurs there are in the world and I can't imagine there's much demand for them, but hey, someone's gotta do it.

We're gonna start with plain, traditional shortbread.  We'll add chocolate, nuts, and other stuff in later posts.  (I already reviewed Dean's cocoNOT and Harry and David's and Walker's vanilla shortbread, but today we're going old school.)

I have always loved shortbread.  Mostly Walker's.  My Mom would always put some in my stocking at Christmas.  LOVED it.  But there are lots of other shortbread companies out there.  More than I ever imagined.  And you know how I am - I can't just say Walker's is good - I have to have something to compare it to.

So I have been shopping for shortbread.  This weekend I went to A Southern Season and found these: 

Cute!  For the 4th!  By The Pound Cake Company.  Well, these were not as great as I had hoped.  They were a little overcooked - see the brown edges?  Shortbread is supposed to be baked very slowly so it doesn't brown.  Maybe these guys should stick to pound cake.

I got these on an earlier trip - shaped like tulips:

Not quite as brown, but had very little taste.  Good shortbread should be buttery.  In fact, in Britain it is a LAW that to be called shortbread, 51% of the fat in a cookie has to come from real butter.  In fact, one of the theories as to why it's even called shortbread is that it contains so much shortening (butter).

By the same company, these were called Sweet Potato Shortbread cookies, and they were the best of the three, but they sure didn't taste much like sweet potato:

And they were insanely crumbly.  A degree of crumbliness is good, but too crumbly = no good.  These were WAY too crumbly.  Think of this - you take a bite of a cookie and the entire rest of the cookie falls down the front of your shirt.  Not so great.

Overall, way too expensive to be as average as they are.

These Lorna Doone cookies are called shortbread:

But they are terrible - you can tell they are cheap - not buttery, hard as rocks.  YUCKO!  The British would soooo not let this bear the name of shortbread.  GLAACK!

Shortbread originated in Scotland, thus Voortman stole the tartan plaid:

I don't know WHAT these things are.  They taste nothing like shortbread and look at that funky color.  They have a weird taste that I can't even describe.  They scare me.

The Pecan Sandie is an okay cookie as I recall, these are Pecan Sandies without the pecan:

The actually looked much better than I thought they would.  They look kind of homemade.  But they really don't taste anything like good, Scottish shortbread.  They taste like Sandies.  Not buttery enough.  Not bad, just different.  Maybe it's because butter is way down the ingredients list following soybean and palm oil.  The British say not just no, but hell no.  This ain't no stinkin' shortbread.

Pepperidge Farm wants to get in on the shortbread action too:

The flavor here isn't bad, but they are too crunchy.  I don't really want crunchy shortbread.  Maybe overcooked?  They have other cookies that are soooooo much better.  Milano, anyone?

These are made in Scotland by the Royal Edinburgh Bakery and I had high hopes for them:

These were packed inside the red tin container - they even have a picture of a Scottish castle on them!

But, nope - not so great. They were close - but a tad too dry, not quite as buttery as the champions.

Sigh.  I've tried Dean's before, but I'm always game to give a brand a second chance!

They look good in the picture.  They are made in Scotland.  They are close to being good, but not quite there.  They tasted more salty than buttery.  Maybe it's because the third ingredient is non-hydrogenated vegetable margarine - eww.  Why do you need that AND butter?  Britain?

Ah - Ireland!  I like the Celtic packaging.  This is a classic shortbread cookie shape (these, rounds and sticks are the classic shapes):

These were close to being good too - and I like that they are made with simple ingredients - wheatflour, butter, sugar, salt.  But look at the brown - they seemed a bit overcooked.  And - this is just a personal preference - I'm not big on the added granulated sugar on top. 

Look at this great shape!!

Again - close, but....just not buttery enough somehow.  There really is a difference between great shortbread and average shortbread.  This isn't bad - Lorna Doone is bad.  Voortman is bad.  This is fine.  Not great, mind you.  Just fine.

Paterson's reminded me of O'Neills:

Sugar, maybe a bit overdone.  A bit tasteless.

These are made in North Carolina.  Now before you freak out, there are a lot of Scots here.  Oh yes - we have the Highland Games every year in the mountains.

However, the Scots must have forgotten something when they immigrated:

Something like flavor.  Sooooo bland.  And I'm not sure about the rice flour.  ZZZZZZZ...........

For the calories and fat, shortbread has to be buttery and with an almost creamy consistency - not crunchy, closer to cakey.  Now you're thinking - what the hell?  She's said all these are only average or are outright crappy?  What is she doing to us?  Are we supposed to wander through life shortbreadless?

Don't worry, my friends!  The cream of the crop (pun intended), the most delcious shortbread cookies I could find, are coming next!!  You will nevah eat subpar shortbread again!!

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