Lessons in Bourbon: Scottish Shortbread with Chocolate Bourbon Drizzle

by kelly vass in


Buttery rectangles of shortbread meet the rich chocolate drizzle with a hint of booze. 

Scottish Shortbread with Chocolate Bourbon Drizzle

Bourbon is an unlikely teacher. In the past few months, it's taught me multitudes about vulnerability, speaking up and going against the majority.

When I first joined a whiskey club a few months ago, I was nervous that I'd stick out. I was invited to the selective group by a cocktail savvy friend and I had no idea what to expect. I loved the brown spirit, sure, but my knowledge was limited to a few mid-range varieties and the updates I got from my Maker's Mark Ambassador emails. I wasn't versed in the nuances of rye, Scotch and bourbon. In fact, I even worried about posting in the group on Facebook for fear I'd use the wrong spelling of whiskey/whisky. 

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Meetings aren't particularly complicated--we review five selections as a group, evaluating color, body, aroma, taste and price by a show of hands and a cannonade of shouts and opinions. However, having tried only a spattering of varieties, at the first meeting, I was afraid to raise my voice and add my suggestions because I couldn't parse out specific flavor notes (geranium?!  tobacco leaf?! Where did they get that from? Were we drinking the same bourbon?!) While it seemed like everyone gathered in the forty person crowd could easily differentiate between oak and cedar, even if I had spoken up, the best I could do was shout out, "WOOD! I taste wood!" 

Scottish Shortbread with Chocolate Bourbon Drizzle

At my second meeting, the group's size shrunk sizably. Rather than filling an apartment, we filled a living room with twenty five or so folks. This meant easy eye contact with everyone in the room. It also meant opinions could be heard more easily, which somehow made speaking up far less intimidating. I found myself blurting out the first things that came to mind, sometimes wordy and off-the-wall comparisons or song lyrics (color? "Amber is the color of your energy." body? "It's got legs like Beyonce"). At my first meeting, I was intimidated by the thought of giving my opinion in a room full of whisky/whiskey (still haven't got it down) aficionados, but with a smaller group, the thought of staying silent was silly, especially after I got nods of agreement and a few laughs.  

scottish shortbread

This month's meeting was even smaller. The theme was Scotch, and whether the smokey spirit deterred people from attending, I don't know. However, even with a limited number of people it was surprisingly difficult to get a consensus, meaning everyone (including me) shared their opinions freely. The robust presence of peat and bold flavors divided the group on which bottles they'd be likely to buy on their own and how much they would be willing to pay. It was exciting and entertaining to hear the different reactions to each Scotch and made for a refreshing meeting.

After the tastings were over, I found myself in a small group of people. As with any social interaction among people who don't know each other well, we talked about topics that we could all agree on to keep the conversation flowing. A few minutes in, the subject shifted and someone introduced a subject I was passionate about with a dismissive remark. I stood silently for a few moments, wondering whether I should disrupt the harmony of the conversation by voicing an objection, or if I should just nod and try to steer the conversation to something else. 

"Actually, I..."

Surprising myself, I spoke up. A few months ago, I would have gone with the silent route, tried to change the subject, or nodded politely in agreement, which is exactly what the group was expecting. My words made everyone pause for a moment as they absorbed what I had to say, and the conversation expanded beyond surface pleasantries and let us go a little deeper and talk about our backgrounds. It felt liberating to state my opinion at the risk of rejection (and obviously great that my opinion wasn't dismissed!). 

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren't always comfortable, but they're never weakness.” -Brene Brown

That's the beauty of vulnerability. It can be something as small as blurting out the first thing that comes to mind when you taste something new for the first time, even if it sounds silly. It can mean voicing your passion for college basketball to people who don't share your enthusiasm and hoping you don't kill the conversation. Or, it can be something as frightening as opening up to someone you care about, telling them how you feel and hoping they don't respond with rejection or dismiss your feelings. Putting your truth forward and sitting in uncertainty as you await a reaction is always a risk, but the reward of vulnerability is learning to embrace discomfort, knowing your worth and leaving behind the wonder of what-ifs and the worry of regret, even if you don't get your desired outcome.

scottish shortbread with chocolate bourbon drizzle

I made this Scottish shortbread for our last whiskey club meeting, which was all about Scotch. For the drizzle, I used a chocolate bourbon that wasn't so popular at our last meeting. It was met with almost unanimous disapproval as a drinking whiskey, but as soon as I mentioned baking with it, it found its redemption. The shortbread recipe comes from a piece posted in the New York Times (and, coincidentally, several blogs claiming it as their grandma's recipe). The bourbon drizzle is my own invention and elevates these buttery cookies to new depths with a rich chocolate contrast. Despite disagreement over Scotch at our last whiskey club, these Scottish shortbread were a unanimous hit!

Scottish Shortbread with Chocolate Bourbon Drizzle

Ingredients:

For the shortbread:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the chocolate bourbon drizzle

  • 2 oz semi- or bittersweet chocolate (I used 60%)
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chocolate bourbon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300F.
  2. Sift together the flour, sugar and salt into a medium bowl. 
  3. Using your fingers or a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal. Press the mixture into a ball and knead a few times to get it all to come together. (Alternatively, you can combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until it just begins to come together).
  4. Add the dough to a cookie sheet and press out into a large rectangle, approximately 1/4" thick. Prick the entire surface with the tines of a fork and then cut into rectangles.
  5. Bake for 45-50 minutes and remove from the oven, re-cut the squares and set on a cooling rack. 
  6. While the cookies cool, chop the chocolate and add to a medium bowl. Add the heavy cream to a microwave-safe bowl and heat for 45 seconds or until the cream just begins to bubble. Pour the cream over the chocolate and whisk vigorously to melt the chocolate. Once it's combined, whisk in the corn syrup and bourbon and drizzle over the shortbread. 
  7. Enjoy!

Samoa Girl Scout Cookie Shots

by kelly vass in , ,


Samoa Shots: boozy shots for the adult girl scout in all of us. 

Samoa Girl Scout Cookie Shots by @kellybakes

Well, kids, I've got some super exciting news to share! Those of you who follow me on Twitter may have seen a tweet promising you a shot if I reached 1,000 followers on Facebook. Welll, guess who's got two thumbs and is now part of the 1,000 fans club? THIS GIRL! *raises the roof*

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I feel like I may have misled you a little bit because, truthfully, I was planning on giving you a shot anyway, I just wanted more reason to celebrate. More reason? you ask. Why, Yes! This brings me two exciting news part two! Autumn and I are back! You may recall in my last post how I mentioned my pal who is supremely talented at making all things cocktails? Well, she and I had been podcasting for almost a year and recently had to take a hiatus due to some pretty serious life-related stuff. 

Luckily, all is well and WEEE'RRREEE BAAAAAACKKK! Our podcast, The Alphabet Soup Podcast, returns tomorrow with our first new episode in nearly 4 months! For those of you who haven't listened before, we have two recoccurring segments, Cocktail Memoirs and Recipe for Disaster. The later usually involves meat, mayonaisse and/or jell-o and the former involves cocktails inspired by our weeks.

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On this week's show, Autumn and I are talking about Girl Scout Cookie shots and to celebrate, we thought we'd share our recipes with you. If you listen to the show, you know that Autumn always keeps it classy and brings her A game and I, well, I keep it real. We both made Samoa shots to celebrate our return, so be sure to head over to her blog, Autumn Makes & Does, for her take on Samoa shots (hint: it may involve jell-o shots)! Be sure to follow us on Twitter for latest podcasts and catch up all of our old episodes by subscribing in iTunes.

 Overzealous pouring of chocolate syrup. #KellyKeepsItReal

Overzealous pouring of chocolate syrup. #KellyKeepsItReal

 Earning my Girl Scout badges with my toasting skills and fire safety knowledge, obviously. #KellyKeepsItReal

Earning my Girl Scout badges with my toasting skills and fire safety knowledge, obviously. #KellyKeepsItReal

SPOILER ALERT: These shots were inspired by super classy shots I did in college involving Hershey's syrup poured directly into your mouth. In the spirit of that, I also "toasted" the coconut with a kitchen blow torch in my bedroom blogging home headquarters at 11:45pm because I was too lazy to turn on the oven. You, dear reader, are of course classy and will use your oven to toast the coconut. Or, just use it straight from the package (I don't judge, clearly). Whatever method you use, please toast responsibly and not while under the influence of alcohol!

Samoa Shots

Ingredients

  • 1/2 ounce caramel vodka
  • 1/2 ounce Malibu rum
  • 1/2 ounce half-and-half
  • chocolate syrup or hot fudge
  • toasted sweetened coconut (I suppose you could use the unsweetened, less processed "healthier" stuff, but let's be real. You're drinking a shot inspired by a cookie that has half-and-half and caramel vodka as a base...adding healthy coconut at this point would be like putting reduced-fat cheese on a Big Mac. Go big or go home!)

Directions

  1. Pour a tablespoon of chocolate syrup onto a plate. On another plate, pour a few tablespoons of toasted coconut. Rim a 1.5 ounce shot glass with the chocolate syrup and then immediately dip in the toasted coconut. Set aside.
  2. In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine the caramel vodka, Malibu and half-and-half. Shake and strain into the shot glass. Enjoy with your best gal pals.

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Valentine's Day S'more Hearts

by kelly vass in , , , , ,


These sweet treats are perfect for sharing with your valentine, shipping to friends or for treating yo self!

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If you're a Valentine's Day hater, let me apologize now. I've got a few more posts headed your way in the next week. They're full of hearts, sprinkles, and sugar, which may or may not warrant a red-and-pink intervention on my part. SORRY NOT SORRY.

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In my last post, I told you I wanted to share some of the things I loved with you. Today, I'm gonna keep the theme going and share s'more (get it?--I told you there'd be puns! and no, not that kind). 

With that being said, it may come as no surprise that I love making marshmallows. The first time I made them, I was filled with this awesome sense of wonder that with a few ingredients, a Kitchenaid mixer, a candy thermometer and some patience, I could create the most fluffy mallows I had ever tasted. If you've never tried a homemade marshmallow, get yourself a candy thermometer and get on it! Trust me on this one: you'll never look at the store-bought kind the same way again. 

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These S'mores Hearts would make a great gift for your sweetheart or send some to your friends! I'm a big fan of sending sweets to my single friends on Valentine's Day and these were a huge hit last year. I always say that a marshmallow is like a hug in your mouth--so why not send your pals a hug sandwiched between cookies and topped with chocolate? Isn't that what any true friend would do?

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These s'mores have three basic components--homemade marshmallows, chocolate and homemade graham crackers. You can really use any recipe you'd like for the graham crackers or the marshmallows. I adapted mine from Smitten Kitchen with a nod to Alton Brown's recipe with the addition of molasses for depth. [I like that Deb from Smitten Kitchen *doesn't* use graham flour, as it can sometimes be tough to find]. I've also listed my recipe for raspberry marshmallows, but if you'd like to use a different recipe, like say, Chocolate Truffle Stout, Cinnamon, or Mint Marshmallows, go right ahead! The basic idea is to spread the mallow mixture in a pan, cut the cooled marshmallows using a heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut the graham cracker dough with the same cutter, bake the grahams, dip them in chocolate and sandwich the heart-shaped mallows in between. Easy peasy, right? Right.

These s'mores hearts were part of a Holiday Food Party, thrown by myself and 13 other amazing bloggers. From ice cream to cookies, plus red velvet, tarts, cupcakes & more, we've got plenty of sweets & treats for all your Valentine's needs, so be sure to check them all out! Whether you make one recipe or all 14, I have faith in you, grasshopper. Now go forth and spread heart-shaped cheer! 

Valentine's S'more Hearts

Make the mallows

Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin (or, 2 packages Knox)
  • 1/3 cup seedless raspberry puree
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 1/2 C light corn syrup
  • 1/4 C water
  • pinch of salt
  • pink food coloring (optional)

    For dusting the pan
  • 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/3 cup corn starch
  • 1 T canola oil or non-stick spray

Instructions

  1. Pour 1/3 cup raspberry puree, vanilla and 2 tablespoons water into the bowl of a stand mixer. Quickly stir. Sprinkle powdered gelatin over the top of raspberry mixture and allow to bloom, approximately 5 minutes. (Note, the mixture will shrivel and congeal and look gross. Don't be alarmed!)
  2. Meanwhile, combine corn syrup, sugar, 1/4 cup water in a small pan. Heat on medium until mixture reaches soft-ball stage, or 240F. Remove from heat. Allow to cool 3 minutes.
  3. Turn stand mixer on low, slowly begin drizzling hot syrup into the gelatin in a thin stream. Once combined, turn speed up to medium. Whisk for 5 minutes.
  4. Turn mixer to high. Whisk for 7 minutes. Add pink food coloring until desired color is reached. Turn off mixer
  5. Using a greased off-set spatula (It’s gonna get sticky and messy so if you want to sit and play and be messy, go for it. Otherwise, grease it up!) evenly spread the marshmallow out into the pan. Allow to set for at least 4 hours.
  6. Once set, cut into hearts with a heart-shaped cookie cutter dusted with corn starch/confectioner's sugar mixture. 

Make the grahams

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 7 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 5 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 10 ounces dark chocolate
  • sprinkles (optional, for decorating)

Instructions

  1. In a food processor, combine flours, brown sugar, baking soda and salt. Pulse once or twice to combine. Add the butter and pulse a few more times until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. (You can also do this by hand using a pastry cutter and some good ol' fashioned elbow grease)
  2. In a small bowl, combine the wet ingredients--honey, molasses, milk and vanilla. Stir until it's well combined (make sure there's no honey or molasses stuck to the bottom--it's sneaky like that!). Add the wet ingredients to the flour/butter mixture and pulse a few times until the mixture starts to form a dough--it should be a little sticky. Place the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap, shape into a 1" thick square and wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm. 
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 350F.
  4. Once the dough has been refrigerated, transfer to a floured surface. Cut the dough in half--keep one half in the fridge until you're ready to roll it out. Roll out the remaining half to a rectangle about 1/8" thick. Cut with heart-shaped cookie cutter and place the heart grahams on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and freeze for 15 minutes in the freezer. Repeat with the remaining half of the dough. 
  5. Bake 15-20 minutes or until just golden brown and firm to the touch. [Baking time will vary depending on your oven and the size of your cookie cutter--I've made 1" grahams that baked in roughly 12 minutes and larger 2" grahams that took around 18-20 minutes.] Allow to cool.
     

Assemble the s'mores!

Instructions

  1. Dip one side of the grahams in chocolate. Sprinkle with sprinkles or non-perils, if desired. Place dipped cookies on a parchment lined cookie sheet and refrigerate 10 minutes to set the chocolate.
  2. Remove cookies from the refrigerator, place two graham chocolate side down and add a thin layer of chocolate to the graham side of each cookie. Place a marshmallow heart on top of one of the graham cracker hearts and top the marshmallow with the other graham cracker heart, forming a sandwich. Allow the s'mores to set for 20 minutes in the refrigerator.
  3. Enjoy!

Fall in love with all our #HolidayParty Recipes! Check them out below!

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1. Chocolate Dipped Sttrawberry Hi Hat Cupcakes (Gluten Free) from Pineapple and Coconut
2. Frosted Cream Cheese Cutout Cookies from Magnolia Days
3. White Chocolate Mousse with Frangelico from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
4. Chocolate Caramel Pretzel 'n Chip Tart from Gotta Get Baked
5. White Chocolate Cherry Brownies from The Messy Baker
6. Chocolate Champagne Cupcakes from The Girl in the Little Red Kitchen
7. Sugar-Free Blueberry Yogurt Truffles from What Smells So Good
8. Strawberry Cheesecake Heart Pie from Hungry Couple NYC
9. Red Velvet Heart Sandwich Cookies from Jen's Favorite Cookies
10. Chocolate Cannoli Cones from Created By Diane
11. Cherry Cheesecake Stuffed Cupcakes from Chocolate Moosey
12. Nutella Brownie Cheesecake No-Churn Ice Cream from Cupcakes and Kale Chips
13. Valentines Smores Hearts from Kelly Bakes
14. Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies from Roxana's Home Baking

**This post contains affiliate links, meaning if you click on an Amazon affiliate link and buy something from Amazon, I get a teensy percentage of the sale, which I put towards things like buying sugar and webhosting (cuz that ain't cheap!).