Indian sweets often combine the classic medley of coconut, cardamom and sugar. In my Coconut Shortbread, I use these Indian ingredients to put a delicious spin on a Scottish favorite.
Desi loves shortbread and so do I. What’s not to love about a cookie that’s utterly simple and yet stunningly exquisite? I make my vegan shortbread for him often enough, but this time I wanted to try something different and something possibly healthier. Therefore, Coconut Shortbread.
For my Coconut Shortbread I chose not use coconut flakes– I don’t like the idea of anything, even delicious flakes, interrupting the perfect texture of shortbread. Instead, I substitute the butter with coconut oil. And then add a smidgen of coconut milk to intensify the flavor.
Coconut oil is a great substitute for butter in shortbread and other recipes that require flaky crusts, like pies, and even in cake frosting. That’s because it remains solid at room temperature in all but the most tropical climates, like shortening would. Be sure to use an organic variety to make sure you get the purest flavor and texture.
One thing to keep in mind when baking with coconut oil is that it has a strong, coconutty flavor, so don’t use it in a recipe where you want a neutral flavor. It works perfectly in this shortbread, though, because we want it to be as coconutty as possible. The reason I said that this shortbread is possibly healthier than regular shortbread is because some research shows coconut fat is actually heart-healthy (although any fat is still fat, so moderation is key).
Cardamom makes this shortbread extra-special and reminds me a little of Naralachi Barfi, an Indian coconut fudge that is a sweet childhood memory. My mom would often make these soft and diamond-shaped barfis for my brother and me when we were kids and they would be pink or blue, exactly as a child would love them. They filled the house with the heady fragrance of sugar, coconut and cardamom, much like this shortbread does.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup coconut milk, cold
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp powdered green cardamom
1 tbsp sugar for dusting shortbread (optional)
Cream together the coconut oil and the powdered sugar with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer until it’s soft and fluffy, about two minutes.
Add the coconut milk and vanilla and mix well.
Add the flour in three batches, mixing well with a spatula after each addition.
Cover and refrigerate the dough for 15-30 minutes.
Grease an 8 by 8 inch glass baking pan.
Place the shortbread dough in the pan. Press with your fingers into an even layer all the way to the corners of the pan.
Bake the shortbread in a preheated 300-degree oven for 50 minutes or until it is slightly darker at the edges.
Remove to a rack, cool for 10 minutes, and then, using a sharp knife, cut into diamond shapes without going all the way through the shortbread.
Cool thoroughly and then separate into diamond shapes.