Chocolate-flecked shortbread

Yield: 12 wedges of shortbread.

There is nothing simpler or more delicious than shortbread. Its granular sandy texture and delicate buttery aroma and taste belie the ease with which it can be made. The quality of the butter is particularly important here so splurge on the best unsalted version you can buy (Plugra and Beurremont are two that come to mind.) But occasionally it’s nice to gild the lily and add one more flavor note to this satisfyingly plain treat. And here, it is chunks of artisanally-made bean-to-bar chocolate that elevate this simple cookie to star status on the plate.  A strong cup of hot coffee or tea or a glass of ice cold milk would complete the experience perfectly.

1-1/2 sticks (6 ounces) best quality unsalted butter you can find, cold, cut into 1 inch pieces, plus softened butter for greasing the baking pan

1/3 c. (2.6 ounces) granulated sugar

2 c. (approximately 7 ounces) all-purpose flour

Pinch salt

2 ounces high quality dark chocolate, cut into approximately 1/3 to 1/2  inch chunks (70% combined cocoa solids and cocoa butter content) (See brands to source in the accompanying post about artisanal bean-to-bar chocolates)

Butter a 9-inch by 1 inch deep fluted (or plain edged) false-bottomed tart pan (or other similarly sized round pan of your choice with a removable bottom such as a spring form pan) and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. with the oven rack set halfway up from the bottom of the oven.

Using a food processor outfitted with the steel knife attachment, pulse all of the ingredients except the chocolate until fine crumbs result. Do not overprocess. The mixture should be crumbly and uniform in color. Remove the mixture from the bowl of the processor and place into a clean bowl. Mix in the chocolate and pour all of the mixture into the pan, lightly distributing it to an even layer. before pressing and compacting it with your fingers in the prepared pan. Be sure that the dough is evenly thick from the center to the perimeter of the pan.

Place the filled pan onto a sheet pan. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes until the mixture is cold. Remove from the refrigerator and, using a fork or the point of a knife, prick the dough all over at even intervals. Now place into the preheated oven and bake for about 35 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Halfway through the baking time, reverse the position of the pan from front to back and side to side to ensure even baking. Do not overbake. Allow to cool briefly (about 5 minutes), and while the shortbread is still soft, using a small knife, cut the dough into 12 even wedges, finding the center and running the knife through it for the first cut. Then make the next cut perpendicular to the first one and through the center again. You should now have four equal quadrants of dough. Cut each quadrant into three equal wedges to yield a total of 12 pieces.  Now carefully place the tart pan on a can or short bottle so that the outside piece of the pan falls away from the shortbread. Then using a wide flat spatula, carefully release the bottom of the shortbread from the pan–the butteriness of the dough should make this task easy. For optimal storage, carefully place the wedges, when completely cooled,  into a container with a tight-fitting lid. Enjoy!

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