Hungarian Shortbread

By • April 12, 2010 24 Comments

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Author Notes: I'm not Hungarian, but this recipe, adapted from Cooking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan, is one of my favorites. Saveur also has a scaled-down version of this recipe on their site. It’s so easy to prepare, requires few ingredients, and, after a short stint in the freezer, can be assembled and baked in under an hour. I’ve changed the recipe slightly, to fit my baking pan of choice, and I decreased the butter a bit, as I felt the original was way too greasy. Any good-quality store-bought jam will work, so feel free to substitute. I've used peach, apricot, plum, strawberry, whatever is in the cupboard, really.

For a thicker shortbread, see step 12. Also, recipe can be halved, in which case use a smaller pan and reduce cooking time slightly.

Serves 20 squares

for the jam (makes about 3 cups, or use your favorite jam)

  • 3 pounds rhubarb, washed, trimmed and cut into 1” chunks
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 strips of lemon zest or orange zest
  1. Place rhubarb, sugar, water, and zest in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the rhubarb gets very soft. Remove from heat and let cool.

For the Hungarian Shortbread

  • 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups jam, homemade or good-quality store-bought, any flavor you like
  • confectioner's sugar, for dusting the top
  1. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, or in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter for a few minutes, until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla, and beat well. Turn off the mixer. Scrape down bowl. Add the flour mixture, and slowly pulse the mixer back and forth, on and off, so as not to send the flour flying out of the bowl. Do this for 30 seconds or so. Increase mixer speed to low and mix just until the flour is incorporated. It is a very stiff dough.
  4. Turn the dough out onto your counter, and cut into quarters. Use a food scale if you’ve got one to get even pieces. Shape each quarter into a flat-ish log about 8 or so inches long. (You'll be putting it down the feed tube of the food processor later.) Wrap each piece in plastic and freeze for about 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a half-sheet pan (12” x 17”) with parchment paper, allowing a bit of paper to hang over sides of pan.
  6. Remove dough from freezer. Using a food processor with the grater blade, place a log of dough through the feed tube (you’ll have to use some muscle and the safety gadget pusher thingy, please). It’s really loud, so warn everyone, or you’ll scare the bejesus out of them. After grating two logs, evenly scatter the grated dough over the prepared pan. Pat the dough ever so lightly into the corners.
  7. Using an offset spatula, gently spread about 3 cups of the jam over the dough.
  8. Grate the remaining logs of dough, and scatter it over the jam, pressing lightly to distribute it evenly.
  9. Bake the shortbread for about 40 minutes, or until golden brown.
  10. When done, remove shortbread from oven, and immediately dust the top heavily with confectioner’s sugar. I use a small mesh strainer for this job and gently tap it against my palm. Set pan on a rack to cool.
  11. Cut into roughly 3” x 3 ½“ squares, or however large or small you desire.
  12. Cook's note: for a thicker shortbread, bake in a parchment-lined 9" x 13" baking pan for 40 minutes, or until golden brown. I use about 2 cups jam in the smaller pan.

More Great Recipes: Cookies|Fruit|Rhubarb

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