Monday, July 14, 2014

Orange Poppy Seed Shortbread



Recently, I read Gretchen Rubin's somewhat controversial bestseller The Happiness Project. If you haven't heard of it, the premise is that the author set out to spend a year of her life becoming happier. The book chronicles her research and experiences in twelve months devoted to different aspects of happiness and well-being. A perfectly commendable pursuit, right? The controversy sets in when you realize that Rubin is an upper-crust Manhattanite with housekeepers and nannies, millions in the bank, and not a single tragic event in her life's history. Then there's the problematic issue that the book focuses entirely on her personal well-being, not the well-being of her family or the world at large. (Nary a service project appears in the twelve months.) And, oh yeah, her version of becoming happier is to keep extensive checklists of tasks to complete every day. Not exactly Zen. Strangely, though I was seriously put off by these facts, I ended up reading the entire thing. And strangely again, I got a lot out of it. While I disagreed in major ways with Rubin's project itself, the research she shared yielded a lot of interesting points about happiness that were real keepers for me. For example, the concept that we are largely in control of our own happiness and can choose it. Or that little things, like putting on the right upbeat music or indulging in a minor splurge (like a pint of fresh raspberries, let's say), can lift your spirits in a big way. I've been trying to keep these truths in mind when I find myself in an irritable, negative state of mind, and have had some genuine success. All in all, I'd say The Happiness Project is worth reading if you can get past its flaws, because ultimately it can serve as a good reminder of how to take responsibility for your own mood. 

So why do I bring all that up? And how does it have to do with the orange cookie-type dessert pictured above? Well, I do like to share thoughts on interesting books, but the whole reason I was thinking about The Happiness Project is that I can't stop thinking about how I laughed out loud at the part where Rubin congratulates herself that she "didn't grouse when [her husband] made three rich desserts in three nights." Ha! Not complaining about rich desserts! Ha! Husbands voluntarily making desserts! You sure have it rough, Gretchen!

Sometimes--I won't say often--I too crave a dessert that's actually light--not too rich, not chocolate. (Though a rich dessert baked by my husband would seem to me a very welcome surprise, not a nuisance to be suffered. What's that saying--don't kick the man out of bed for eating crackers? Or don't kick him out of the kitchen for making cake, perhaps?) Still, yes, some meals simply call for something delicate to finish. This little shortbread is just right for when the mood strikes for something lighter. (And you can always top it with vanilla ice cream if light isn't what you're after.) Served with tea or coffee, it would also make a divine afternoon snack. And did I mention it's super easy? You don't even need a bowl; the whole thing is made in the food processor. Maybe I should send the recipe to Gretchen Rubin to give to her husband--or just because with its lovely lightness and hint of orange, making and eating it made me happy. :)


Orange Poppyseed Shortbread
(From Real Simple)

Ingredients:

1/2 c. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 c. all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
1/2 c. powdered sugar
generous 1/8 tsp. salt
2 tsp. grated orange zest
2 tsp. poppy seeds

Directions:

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9" round cake pan or fluted removable-bottom tart pan.

2. In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process the butter, flour, sugar, and salt until moist clumps form. Add the orange zest and poppy seeds and pulse briefly just to combine. 

3. Press the mixture evenly into the prepared pan. Bake until lightly golden, about 25 minutes.

4. Using a serrated knife, cut the warm shortbread into wedges.


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