Italian Shortbread with Almonds and Jam
This is a wonderful dessert for those unexpected emergencies. It smells divine and it's so beautiful it makes you look like a wizard in the kitchen. You don't even have to grease the pan. The shortbread tastes best the day after it's baked, if there's any left. Serve with ice cream or a glass of Vin Santo or other sweet dessert wine. Great with coffee, too.
12 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened, 1 1/2 sticks
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1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1/4 cup low sugar apricot jam, preferably smucker's, grapefruit marmalade or other not too sweet jam
powdered sugar for serving, optional
Preheat oven to 350 and set a rack in middle level. Have ready a 9 inch ungreased fluted springform pan or if you don't have one, you can use a nine inch pie pan.
Beat butter and sugar on medium speed in stand mixer or with hand held mixer. It will take a little longer with handheld mixer. Beat for 3 to 4 minutes or til very light, scraping down sides of bowl and paddle from time to time. Add almond extract and bean on medium peed for 30 seconds more to blend well.
In small bowl, whisk flour and salt together. Add to the butter mixture and beat on low speed, just til dough is stiff. Remove 1/2 cup of the dough and spread on small plate in thin layer. Place in freezer.
Press remaining dough evenly into the pan. It can be a little higher at the edge but the center shouldn't be elevated. Spread jam evenly over dough to within an inch of the edge. Retrieve the remaining dough from freezer and crumble it over the jam, allowing some of the jam to peek through. Sprinkle the almonds evenly over to top
Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or til golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool completely on wire rack. Stand the pan on a heavy can to remove the sides. The rim will just fall away. Transfer shortbread, still on the pan bottom to a platter or use a spatula to remove it form pan. to serve,dust with powdered sugar, if desired and either break into serving pieces or let your guests break off pieces as they like.
Note: You can make the shortbread, unbaked up to 1 month ahead. Wrap it twice in plastic wrap and freeze it on a flat surface. To bake the shortbread, unwrap it and set it frozen in the oven. Allow a few extra minutes of baking time. If you like, you can you can omit the jam. Just press all the dough into the pan and top it with the almonds. You might want to add the grated zest of a lemon (I'd try an orange, too) to the dough along with the almond extract.