I love sweet treats and salty treats just about equally. You know how some people say they can resist cake, but not potato chips--or vice versa? Well, I can resist neither. (It's a problem.)
So...I decided to make shortbread, iced with dark chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt.
I was contentedly sipping my coffee and nibbling on my shortbread--and as if a mug of hot java and a slice of uber-buttery-chocolatey-salty shortbread wasn't enough to make my day brilliant enough already, I was also perusing my latest issue of Victoria magazine, which just so happens to be dedicated entirely to "Romantic England." (Could my day get any more British than it was? It could.) And to top it all off, on the cover of said issue of Victoria there was a picture of a castle that will look very familiar to anyone who's a fan of PBS's "Downton Abbey." It's actually called Highclere Castle, currently the home of the 8th Earl and Countess of Carnarvon. Julian Fellowes, the man responsible for the epic drama series that might be the best show ever, is a longstanding friend of the Earl and Countess and a frequent visitor to the castle that was the inspiration for the show. What "Downton"-ites will find interesting is that in 1895, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon married Lady Almira (the wealthy American heiress of Alfred de Rothschild), and this generous woman transformed Highclere Castle into a hospital for wounded soldiers during WWI. Does any of this sound familiar? Is anyone reminded of Cora at all, or is it just me?
And speaking of "Downton Abbey," it has a way of making husbands/fiances/boyfriends who would normally never in a million years choose to watch a show even remotely like it become hopelessly addicted. My husband started watching it with me, and he got really hooked. But he kept saying, "If someone asked me what I like about it, I'd have to say, 'I really have no idea.'" My husband's brother got into it with his wife as well, and she told me that they would sit down to watch an episode or two on Netflix, and as each one ended they would say "Just one more!"--until suddenly, it was 3:00 in the morning!
My husband and I have watched the first three seasons on Netflix already; but we recently started them over again (in order to get prepared for the coming fourth season), and our second oldest son watched a few episodes with us. His observations went something like this: "I'm sort of bored when I'm watching it. This show has everything I hate: English accents, old-fashioned clothes, people talking all the time, with no car chases or explosions to break up the monotony...but every time an episode ends, I want to see what happens next! I'm not even sure why I want to keep watching it, but I do."
So there you have it: "Downton Abbey" is a show for chicks; but men like it, too, even if they don't know why.
Now here's that shortbread recipe, so you've got something to nosh on while you're watching "Downton Abbey." If you haven't gotten hooked on it yet, there's still time to catch up before the new season begins!
Sweet 'n Salty Shortbread
Beat til creamy: 1 cup softened butter, 3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
Add and mix in: 2 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt
Press mixture into buttered 9" square pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Poke holes in top with toothpick. Bake at 300 degrees until golden brown at edges. (The recipe says it takes 40 minutes, but my oven tends to cook things more quickly and it only took 30 minutes.)
Melt together in microwave-safe bowl: about 1 and 1/2 cups of dark chocolate chips and 2 tablespoons of butter (I'm spit-balling here, because I didn't really measure), and spread this over the top of the shortbread. While the chocolate topping is still all melty (before it has a chance to cool and harden), sprinkle with sea salt.
Cheers, then. Tarra, cheerio, and all that good stuff. Have a jolly-good week!