I find a well-appointed cheese board hard to resist. By that I mean, not just a selection of different kinds of cheese, but nuts, jams, fruit and interesting bread or crackers. Even though I bake, I am always more tempted by salty, savory treats than sweets. Last Saturday, I attended the annual Ireland Network Chicago Ball at the elegant Drake Hotel and was very happy that the Irish Dairy Board/Kerrygold provided a selection of wonderful Irish cheeses after dinner. I know this might seem freakish to some of you chocoholics, but I actually passed on the chocolate mousse dessert in favor of a plate of cheese. It reminded me that I recently experimented using Kerrygold’s Cashel Blue in a savory shortbread recipe.
I was recently intrigued by a recipe for Stilton sables (a fancy French word for thin shortbread biscuits) by Beca Lyne-Pirkis, one of the contestants in BBC’s “Great British Bake Off.” To make it my own, I started with her basic recipe for the shortbread but substituted something Irish — Cashel Blue cheese — and something American – California black mission figs — for the British ingredients. The dried figs benefit from being rehydrated for a few minutes before adding them to the dough.
I haven’t come across savory shortbread much in the States, but these tasty biscuits are a nice addition to a cheese board and are definitely worth trying. They are also lovely served on their own as simple canapes when friends come round for drinks. A bonus is the dough can be made ahead and frozen so you always have something on hand for unexpected guests.
- 4 oz. all purpose flour
- 3 oz.cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 4 oz.cold Cashel Blue cheese, chilled and cut into small pieces
- 3 oz. dried Black Mission Figs, cut into small pieces
- pinch of salt
- 1 egg yolk
- 4 oz. walnuts, ground in a food processor
- Soak the chopped figs for 10 minutes in just enough cold water to just cover them. Drain.
- Heat oven to 375 degrees.
- Put the flour, butter, cheese and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture looks like large breadcrumbs, but be careful not to over mix.
- Add the chopped figs and egg yolk and pulse until the dough forms a ball.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly. Press it out to form a disk, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes. If not baking right away, at this stage the dough can be placed in a plastic freezer bag and frozen for future use.
- Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Grind walnuts in a food processor, then spread out on a large plate.
- Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator. Place between two sheets of parchment paper and roll out to 1/4 inch thickness. Using a 2 inch round biscuit cutter, cut into rounds. Coat the rounds in the ground walnuts and place on the lined baking sheets.
- Bake for 16 to 20 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool slightly on the baking sheet before removing them to a wire rack to cool completely.