This might be my favorite TWD recipe to date. Crumbly buttery dough with flecks of salt that linger on your tongue. A bit of jelly in the middle for a note of acidity. Dusts of powdered sugar for fun and aesthetics. This is one pretty amazing shortbread bar.
The secret to this shortbread’s texture comes from its unusual method of freezing and grating the dough (using a cheese grater). The original recipe calls for rhubarb jam but you can use any preserves you’d like. Since we don’t eat jam or preserves very much, all I had in my pantry was a jar of marula jelly I’d brought from my trip to Namibia last year. It seemed like the perfect occasion to finally open it.
Just in case you’re wondering, Namibia is located in Southern Africa; it sits on the West of South Africa, right here:
One of my work projects centers around Namibia’s indigenous natural products; those are plants and roots often used in cosmetics (think Body Shop), and marula is one of them (others are devil’s claw, ximenia, commiphora resin, etc). The fruit used for this jelly comes from the marula tree, also called the elephant tree, which is indigenous to Southern Africa. Marula fruits are also used for making beer and the creamy Amarula liqueur made in South Africa (and which I had used to great effect in the tiramisu). Amarula tastes great on the rocks or mixed with some milk; it reminds me a lot of Bailey’s actually.
In any case, I bought this marula jelly when I was flying through Johannesburg on my way back from Windhoek. I had no idea what marula fruits tasted like. They look like plums and are supposed to have a light yellow skin when ripe although I’ve never seen the fruit myself. The jelly did taste a bit like plum although one person who had a piece of my shortbread thought I had used dates.
This is what’s printed on the jar:
Marula (Sclerocarya Birrea) is a tree famous for its versatile fruit – Eaten raw or brewed into beer. Rich in Vit. C – Popular with most wild animals. Juice claimed to be an aphrodisiac – A fertility tree to some.
Hungarian Shortbread with Marula Jelly
Original recipe from Gale Gand, in Baking With Julia.
As usual, I made a few changes:
- Reduced the sugar to 1 1/2 cups instead of 2 cups (this was just right for me)
- Added some lime juice to the marula jelly to brighten it up
- I pre-baked the bottom layer for 10-15 minutes per the advice of other bloggers
- After it came out of the oven, I attempted to cut a slice without letting it cool down completely, and it crumbled into pieces. So, don’t be impatient like me…
- Gale Gand learned this recipe from his teacher Lydia. Apparently, you can make a chocolate shortbread by substituting 1 cup cocoa for 1 cup of the flour. Sounds like something I might have to try next time.