It has been nearly two and a half weeks since my last post. Two and a half weeks of agenda-less days filled with sunshine, laughter, and food I didn’t have to cook. I would apologize for the absence, but I am not sorry. Don’t get me wrong – I realize that taking a long vacation weeks after launching a blog might not be the wisest decision I’ve ever made, especially when I’m not on top of my game enough to have content ready to post while I’m away. And I did feel the occasional pang of maybe I should be thinking of a new recipe right now. But the time spent unplugged from the daily pushes and pulls of normal life was priceless.
After a decadent trip to the Bahamas with the love of my life to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary, we spent time in northern Michigan with the kids and my dad. We boated, beached, swam, explored. The kids got completely off whatever schedule we’d managed to get them on, rules for how many desserts were acceptable in a day went out the window, and we loved every minute of it.
In the evening, after the kids finally went to sleep, I got to catch up on the other love of my life, The Great British Baking Show. I know, I know, the season airing on PBS was probably on years ago in the UK, but I don’t care. How can you not be charmed by a show that is as British as a British thing can be (sheep in the background! constant photos of rain! people who are physically incapable of being anything but polite!) and where all the contestants help each other? And give me all the Mel and Sue puns while I can still get them.
I’ve watched the show for a few years, but I’d never attempted to reimagine a recipe from the show until now. Mary Berry, goddess of the garden party, had something called a ‘Viennese Whirl’ as one of the technical challenges. They seemed to be super light, buttery, delicately swirled sandwich cookies with jam and buttercream frosting. As soon as I saw the finished product, I thought, I can make something that kind of maybe tastes like that.
What I ended up creating was a shortbread sandwich cookie filled with a homemade strawberry jam and simple vanilla buttercream frosting. The cookies are crisp and melt in your mouth, the jam is very tart, the buttercream is sweet and creamy, and the whole thing is just the right balanced flavor and texture combination to trick you into thinking you should eat three at a time.
I made the jam first so that it could cool in the fridge while I made the other components. It is the very end of strawberry season here, and this is an excellent way to use the last local quart you can find at the market. And just think – it’s cherry season now, and blueberries are right around the corner. The jam could easily be made with any berry throughout the summer. When I said that this particular jam is tart, I meant it. I love the contrast with the sweet cookie and the buttercream, but if you are a person for whom there is never enough sweet (I’m looking at you, my lovely and amazing mother-in-law), then you can add an extra quarter cup of sugar while the jam is cooking.
The cookies are a simple shortbread and come together in a snap. I used a small biscuit cutter once I rolled out the dough. You probably won’t get all 24 circles out of the first roll-out (I got sixteen), so you can recombine the leftover dough, roll it out again, and get your remaining circles. You could probably stretch it to make a few more cookies, but I had two small helpers who were clamoring for tastes and ended up having just the right amount.
You should have more than enough buttercream for twelve sandwiches, so feel free to really load them up. In my world, there can never be enough frosting.
- ½ cup butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 quart strawberries, trimmed and chopped
- ¼ cup sugar
- Juice from half of a lemon
- ½ cup butter (1 stick), at room temperature
- 1 ¾ cups powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- Preheat oven to 375° and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- For the jam: Place quartered strawberries in a saucepan and add sugar and lemon juice. Cook over medium-high heat, mashing the strawberries with a potato masher and hten stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens. Pour onto a roasting pan and place in the refrigerator until cooled and set. While jam is cooling, make cookies and frosting. (For Bake Off fans: whatever you do, don’t take Ian’s baked Alaska out of the fridge to make room.)
- Note: This jam is very tart, which I think complements the sweetness of the frosting well, but if you prefer a sweeter cookie, add another ¼ cup sugar.
- For the cookies:In bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment (a hand mixer will also work), cream butter and sugar. Start your speed low, then gradually increase it to medium to avoid a powdered sugar explosion. Beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add in flour and mix only until just combined.
- Place dough on lightly floured counter. Roll out dough to about a ¼ inch thickness. Using the biscuit or cookie cutter of your choice, cut out 24 cookies. Place on cookie sheets and bake for 13 to 15 minutes, until lightly golden brown. Cool on cookie racks until room temperature.
- For the frosting: In your stand mixer, add butter, powdered sugar and vanilla and beat on medium speed until light and creamy, about two minutes.
- To assemble: Turn all of the shortbread cookies over. Spread a thin layer of jam on twelve of them, and a generous swirl of buttercream on the other twelve. Sandwich together and enjoy the buttery goodness.