Hungarian Shortbread {TWD-BWJ}

This week’s recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie — Baking with Julia was a new twist on an old favorite for me. I’m a big fan of shortbread cookies and love to try different versions of them (Nick Malgieri’s macadamia shortbreads were especially delicious), but I had never heard of Hungarian shortbread before making this recipe.

What sets Hungarian shortbread apart from other shortbreads is that it is layered and filled with a tart fruit filling, rhubarb jam in the case of Dorie’s recipe. The other thing that is unique about this recipe is the way the shortbread is formed. After mixing the dough, you divide it in half and shape each half into a ball, freeze the dough balls for half an hour, then grate the dough into the pan using a box grater. The filling is spread between two layers of dough, and the whole thing is baked. Finally, the shortbread is dusted with powdered sugar as soon as it comes out of the oven.

Here are my observations on this recipe:

  • I don’t really understand the purpose of freezing and grating the dough.  The recipe says that it makes the dough easier to work with, but I didn’t really find that to be true. First, I had a heck of a time shaping the dough into balls and wrapping it. Then, when I tried to grate it, it got so crumbly that I gave up on the box grater and  just crumbled it into the pan by hand. I think it would have been just as easy to press the dough into the pan from the beginning, and that’s what I’ll do next time.

  •  I’m generally not a fan of rhubarb, and it’s not really in season here yet, so I decided to use my homemade four-citrus marmalade for the filling. The tart bite of the marmalade offset the sweetness of the shortbread and brought the whole thing together.

  • The shortbread baked up beautifully. Some of the other TWD bakers reported that their shortbread came out underdone, but mine was perfect.

  • I dusted the top of the shortbread with powdered sugar as soon as it came out of the oven, as the recipe instructed. However, since it was hot, the sugar melted and got kind of funky. Next time, I’ll let it cool first, then dust on the sugar.

  • And now, a word about purple. When I first looked at the picture of the finished shortbread in the book, I thought it was beautiful. I especially liked the contrasting colors — the golden shortbread punctuated by the red filling and bluish-purple topping. I quickly turned to the recipe to see what made the bluish color on top of the shortbread, but the recipe just said to dust it with powdered sugar. Nothing blue; nothing purple — just powdered sugar. I flipped back to the picture, looked at it more closely, and realized the blue tint was just a reflection from the background. Undaunted, I decided mine would be purple.
  • I tried coloring the powdered sugar with food coloring, but it didn’t mix in. Then I stirred in purple finishing sugar that I use for King Cake. It mixed in fine, but when I dusted the top of the shortbread, the colored sugar didn’t make it through the sifter. I finally ended up just sprinkling the sugar on top of the shortbread. It didn’t give quite the same effect as the photo in the book, but I still liked the look of it.

The final verdict: we really liked this recipe, and I’ll definitely be making it again. I might change up the filling, but I’ll keep it tart. And I won’t bother with trying to grate the dough; I’ll just press it into the pan. And, yes, I’ll use purple sprinkles again.


  1. Kathy said,

    May 5, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    Wow! Your Hungarian Shortbread looks amazing! I also thought pressing it into the pan would work just fine…but I don’t want to mess with a good thing! Have a great weekend!

    • gaaarp said,

      May 8, 2012 at 5:06 pm

      Thanks, it was really good. I’m thinking of making it again soon!

  2. teaandscones said,

    May 4, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    I lOVE the purple. So colorful. I didn’t have any trouble grating the dough. Mine was petty damp after freezing. Altho – I didn’t use it all because as I shredded it began to thaw in my hand. NOW I have some left over!!

    • gaaarp said,

      May 5, 2012 at 11:07 am

      Thanks! I thought it came out kind of nice. Reminded me of Mardi Gras, which is never a bad thing.

  3. Kayte said,

    May 3, 2012 at 9:31 pm

    Love the purple…very unique and how often do we all get to eat all that much by the way of purple food anyway? Good choice. I loved the grating as it seemed to make my dough lighter and not so stiff and hard in the end after baking. (I just read that and figured I should change those words but I’m not going to, figured you would get a kick out of what was intended as a seemingly innocent description that sort of went awry: hindsight.) Anyway…I think you can tell the difference in texture when you look at the final photos. Your choice of filling sounds lovely. Nice job…definitely a repeat around here as well.

    • gaaarp said,

      May 4, 2012 at 9:59 am

      I’ll have to check yours out for the textural comparison. But mine had the correct texture for shortbread IMO.

  4. May 3, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    I grated half of mine and then crumbled the rest. I think it needed to be more solid to grate. The purple looks fun!

    • gaaarp said,

      May 4, 2012 at 9:57 am

      Did you think just crumbling all of it into the pan would have worked just as well?

  5. Conor Bofin said,

    May 1, 2012 at 4:13 pm

    Don’t be upset by the purple. The entire effect is excellent. They look so tasty.

  6. Abby said,

    May 1, 2012 at 9:55 am

    Ha! I love the purple sprinkles!! I think I may have left my dough in the freezer for a little longer than 30 minutes, but it grated fine at the beginning…and then started to crumble. So I used a mix of the grating/crumbling method. I didn’t have any problems with my crust underbaking either. I love the idea of citrus in the filling…I’ll have to try your marmalade recipe!

    • gaaarp said,

      May 4, 2012 at 9:55 am

      Thanks. All the grating and crumbling seemed unnecessary to me.

  7. Cher said,

    May 1, 2012 at 8:08 am

    Very colorful 🙂 These were certainly very tasty and held up to substitutions in the filling.

    I found that after a half hour in the freezer, the dough was a little too soft and I was struggling with grating by the end. I didn’t find the lower crust to be underbaked either.

    • gaaarp said,

      May 4, 2012 at 9:53 am

      I might try freezing it longer next time to see how that works. But to be honest, I probably will skip the freezing and just press it into the pan.

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