It’s hot, and you’re hungry. The heavy workload delayed lunch. Finally, alone with your lunch box, there next to your big salami sandwich are three chocolate shortbread bars with the cool orange cream. Your mother taught you that dessert comes last, but life is too uncertain, so you reach for the Paradise Bars first. The orange is cool and smooth; the chocolate shortbread is rich. The buzz in your head quiets, as that elusive spot has been hit hard. Good thing you’re alone now that your tough exterior has been compromised. Your secret is safe with me.
One more note before we begin, I have given this recipe to you almost verbatim from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Rose’s Christmas Cookies . Even though I’ve rearranged the instructions and added a few notes and reminders from my experience, Rose has the details very well covered.
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MISE EN PLACE FOR THE SHORTBREAD
- Measure the butter and return it to the refrigerator.
- In the bowl of the food processor, combine sugars and cocoa and wiz until very fine.
- Measure the flour and set aside.
- Prepare baking pan by greasing all sides and bottom.
- Cut a piece of parchment paper approximately 15” x 8” and line the pan so that the paper extends over two sides. This will be important when it’s time to lift the finished cookie from the pan.
- Preheat the oven to 325ºF
The prepared pan.
MIS-EN-PLACE FOR THE ORANGE CURD
- Measure orange juice into a small non-aluminum saucepan.
- Measure butter and set aside to come to room temperature.
- Separate eggs measure egg yolk and set aside.
- Measure sugar and add a pinch of salt to the sugar.
- Zest orange and set aside.
METHOD FOR THE SHORTBREAD
- Add the cold butter to the sugars and cocoa mixture and pulse until well combined.
- Then add the flour and pulse until there are a lot of moist, crumbly pieces of dough without any visible flour particles.
- Turn the dough onto a clean surface and press it together, using no extra flour.
The Chocolate Shortbread Base
- Pat the dough into the prepared pan, and prick it with a fork several times.
Unbaked dough in prepared pan
BAKE THE SHORTBREAD
- Bake for 45 minutes or until the dough is firm to the touch.
- Careful not to over bake it, as it will go into the oven again once the curd is added.
PREPARE THE ORANGE CURD
- Pour the orange juice into a non-aluminum sauce pan. This is important because you don’t want the acid from the orange juice to discolour the juice. Alternately, you can pour the juice into a greased heatproof measure, and microwave it on high until it is reduced to 2 tablespoons. This will take about 15 minutes. Watch closely toward the end as the juice gets very syrupy and reduces quickly.
- Stir the butter into the concentrated orange juice. You will want to leave the heavy caramelization alone and not stir it into the reduction because it will change the colour and flavour of your finished cookie.
The orange reduction with melted butter.
- In a heavy saucepan, beat the egg yolks, sugar and salt with a wooden spoon until well blended.
- Stir in the orange mixture, and orange zest. The mixture will be very thick.
- Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes or until it pools up on surface when dropped from a spoon. (A thermometer will read 155-160ºF).
- It must not be allowed to boil or it will curdle, meaning the egg yolks will coagulate and will lose its ability to thicken. Whenever steam is visible, remove the pan briefly from the heat, stirring constantly to prevent boiling. When the curd has thickened, pour it at once into a bowl. This curd will reach 155 degrees very, very quickly. Don’t take your eyes off it, or you will likely lose it.
- Resist the urge to strain it, as the curd will be too thick to push through a strainer and you will be short orange curd for the finished cookie.
BAKE THE ORANGE CURD
- When the shortbread is baked, remove it from the oven, lower the temperature to 300 degrees
- Pour the orange curd on top of the baked shortbread
- Return to oven for 5 minutes.
Baked orange curd just out of the oven.
- Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. It is important at this point to let the pan cool to the point where the curd is completely set and very firm.
- Note that this curd will not set hard, since there isn’t any gelatin in it. It will soft set to the point where it is firm enough that it will support the chocolate glaze without bleeding. Assuring that the curd is set completely will help you get a nice clean cut.
- If the curd is still soft, the knife will drag the curd and the chocolate glaze with it, and make a messy presentation.
ORANGE CHOCOLATE GANACHE GLAZE
- When it is cool, prepare the glaze.
- Melt the chocolate on the lowest heat possible: in a microwave or saucepan or over steam.
- Heat the cream until hot, but not to the boiling point. If the cream gets too hot, the chocolate mixture will separate and become oily.
- Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir until smooth.
- Cool to room temperature, and stir in the Grand Marnier.
- Pour the mixture into a quart-size re-sealable bag or a small pastry bag fitted with a #2 or #5 tip.
- Drizzle swirls of chocolate over the top of the orange curd. (Save any leftovers for ice cream.)
- Before the chocolate drizzle sets, use the parchment to lift out the shortbread onto a cutting surface.
- Use a long, sharp knife to cut the shortbread into thirds, then in six the other way.
Close up. I liked the close up.
- Wipe the blade after each cut.
- Store in an airtight container at room temperature, or in the refrigerator or freezer.
- Keeps 3 days at room temperature (individually wrapped in plastic), or 3 months frozen.
Chocolate Orange Paradise Bars, The Finer Cookie.
In Scotland, it is said that the best shortbread is mixed with the fingers and that each person's fingers lend something distinctive and special to the finished cookie. The texture is more delicate. I'll leave this with you.