Recipe & Review: Birthday Shortbread for Bilbo & Frodo Baggins

Recipe and Review: Birthday Shortbread for Bilbo & Frodo Baggins from The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien

The Hobbit The Lord of the Rings

Fantasy: The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien

September 22 is the shared birthday of Bilbo Baggins and Frodo Baggings, two of the most beloved book characters of all time. Bilbo’s story, The Hobbit was first published on September 21, 1937 and Frodo’s story from  The Lord of the Rings was first published in three volumes, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King from 1954 through 1955. These works by J.R.R. Tolkien, the father of modern fantasy, are the heart of an international fandom that is almost frightening in its intensity.

Tolkien was a scholar with a focus on the study of languages. It is no wonder that the high fantasy world he created has complete languages with distinct alphabets and runes that even evolved over the ages of his world of Middle Earth. The elves have a flowing script that wanders across the page like vines, in contrast to the straight lines and angular runes of the dwarves which would have been cut into stone.

Along with the languages for the peoples of Middle Earth, he created distinct geography and cartography. These lands helped shape the characters that grew in them — their priorities, skills, and loyalties. Hobbits in their green and agrarian lands adore the comforts of home and hearth. The men that dwell in the land of Gondor favor the skills of warriors due to their proximity to the evil that lives in Mordor. Elves live in the woods because the sight of the sea would awaken their longing to return to the lands of the Valar.

Aside from the complex lands to explore, Tolkien populated his Middle Earth with equally complex people. With an epic quest plot, the journey through Middle Earth is filled with enough characters for everyone to find a favorite — wizards, warriors, mischief makers, heroes, and helpers. Characters mentioned in passing often had amazing backstories and/or futures found in the LOTR appendices or other poems or books by Tolkien. Not standing tall, but at the heart of all the characters found in Middle Earth are Bilbo and Frodo. Their quests drive the plot of the books.

Being major characters in such a big story, means that Bilbo and Frodo deserve some quiet time on their shared birthday, September 22, to enjoy a quiet treat and tea. This shortbread recipe can be kept simple or can be dressed up in party fancy with a few adjustments. Lady Grey tea, a softer version of Earl Grey tea, with additional citrus notes make a soothing accompaniment to shortbread cookies. Whether you are re-discovering the books or enjoying the adventure for the first time, have the cookies below to snack on, because hobbits always have time for tea and treats.

Birthday Shortbread

1 cup salted butter, at room temperature (if using unsalted butter then add 1/4 teaspoon salt)

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoons vanilla extract (optional)

 

1) Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly oil two round 9″ cake pans. If you worry about the shortbread  sticking in your particular pans, line them with parchment, and oil the parchment.
2) In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, and vanilla; then beat in the flour. The mixture may seem a little dry at first; keep beating till it comes together. If it absolutely won’t come together, dribble in up to 1 tablespoon of water, until it does. This is a stiff dough.
3) Divide the dough in half, and press each half into one of the prepared pans, smoothing the surface with your fingers, or with a mini rolling pin. Use a knife to section off wedges, this scoring should help prevent breakage later.
4) Use a fork to prick the dough all over; this allows any steam to escape, and prevents the shortbread from bubbling as it bakes. You can prick the dough in a random pattern, but it looks nicer pricked with some kind of symmetry.
5) Bake the shortbread until it’s a light gold across the top surface, and a deeper gold  around the edges, about 15 minutes. 
6) Remove it from the oven, and immediately turn each shortbread round out onto a clean work surface.
7) Using a pizza wheel or knife, cut each round into 12 wedges. (Do this while the shortbread is still warm; if you wait until it’s cool, it won’t cut easily.) Transfer the shortbread wedges to a rack to cool.
8) Serve as is, or decorate. Here are a few suggestions:

     * Drizzle with melted caramel/dulce de leche or dip into chocolate
     * Sprinkle caramel cookies with large salt flakes or chocolate cookies with chopped pecans
     * Create sandwich cookies by spreading pairs with jam or lemon curd

Cookies baked on a sheet pan in the shape of rectangles, make for lovely shortbread fingers which are easier to dip into melted chocolate.

For thinner cookies to make sandwiches, shape the dough into logs and chilled in the fridge until hard. The cookies can then be sliced into thin rounds which make it easier to add a dollop of jam or lemon curd after cooling. Sandwiching the bottom halves of the cookies together tend to make a prettier plate.

 

The Hobbit The Lord of the Rings

Recipe and Review: Birthday Shortbread for Bilbo & Frodo Baggins from The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien

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