Yesterday was our annual Upscale Bake Sale as part of the CBC Suncor Energy Food Bank Drive.
Decadent Desserts brought fancy cakes and a gluten-free Yule log Buttercream Bakeshoppe brought cupcakes. Joining us for the first time this year, Yann Haute Patisserie with pain au chocolat, croissants and other flaky pastries, Wild Grainz with freshly baked loaves and shortbread, Sweet Provocateur
with festively packaged cookies, loaves and buttercrunch, and the folks from Cruffs were going fast and furious custom-filling cream puffs with chocolate-hazelnut, vanilla and strawberry pastry cream.
Each bakery donated their time and baked goods, and many came down to help and chat with folks coming to buy their wares, with 100% of the proceeds going to the Calgary Inter-faith Food Bank. The numbers aren’t in yet, but when I left they had already tallied up $3500.
An enormous THANK YOU to all the bakers, volunteers, Suncor Energy and everyone who came down, creating a lineup that snaked under the escalator and past the Starbucks, to buy some baking. It was perfect. I had goosebumps for a full hour.
The shortbread felt like a bit of a copout, but running low on time and wanting to make lots of batches of something delicious, I settled on the simplest, most delicious shortbread, made with Madagascar vanilla bean paste, which is far more inexpensive than vanilla beans, but you still get those little seeds you can see speckled throughout the shortbread. I used my grandma’s cookie stamp, which someone made out of clay. I used to roll balls of dough and squish it down with the stamp; now I slice off a log of dough, then imprint with the stamp and the dough doesn’t crack around the edges. You don’t need a stamp – this dough could be chilled, then rolled and cut into little stars, or sliced and baked as is, or rolled into balls, indented with your thumb and filled with jam, or patted into 9-inch pans and baked, then cut into wedges. It’s shortbread – there are so many things to be done with it.
Shortbread is perfect for cookie exchanges – tuck into small bowls lined with tissue, then slide into cellophane bags and tie with a ribbon; or fill small glass jars.
Vanilla Bean Shortbread
3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg yolk
1-2 tsp. vanilla bean paste, or 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar and salt with an electric mixer for 2 minutes, until pale and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolk and vanilla.
Add the flour and stir just until you have a soft dough. Shape it into two or three logs, wrap and refrigerate for an hour (or up to a few days) or freeze for up to 6 months.
When ready to bake, let sit on the countertop until it softens a bit, then slice 1/4″ thick, press with a cookie stamp (if you like) and bake on a parchment-lined sheet at 350F for 12-14 minutes, or until pale golden around the edges. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Makes 3-4 dozen cookies.