Grilled Shortbread Cookies

My friend Virginia’s dad, Andy, has grilled just about everything. I mean everything. Yes, he has grilled all of the standards— hot dogs, hamburgers, and barbeque chicken— but he also has tried lasagna, casseroles, and even a cheesecake. That certainly got my mind ticking.

Virginia has memories of him standing outside at midnight in the rain holding an umbrella over himself and the grill.

A man after my own heart.

A couple of weeks ago we went to our friend’s Hallie’s birthday party. We brought hotdogs and cookies. True to form, I decided to start making the cookies about 30 minutes before we needed to leave. Also, true to form, I wanted to experiment. Our kitchen was as hot as blue blazes, so I decided to throw the cookies on the grill. If Andy Anderson can grill a cake, then by golly I can grill cookies.

Being confident that it would work, I loaded up two baking sheet with cookies while the grill heated up. I placed both sheets on the grill and closed the lid. In about three minutes flat, the bottoms of the cookies were all solid black. Oops.

Lesson number one, things burn quickly on an overly hot grill. One day, I will remember that in earnest.

The tops were delicious so instead of tossing the bunch, my husband and I dutifully scraped off and ate the good parts. Not dignified, especially if you use your teeth, but tasty.

Luckily, I had enough dough left over for one more tray. I heated the oven (and yes, in turn, heated the kitchen) and baked the last batch. Disaster averted.

Not willing to give up easily, the next day, I returned to my grilled cookie project and after a few (smaller) test runs, I perfected it. Andy would be proud!

Grilled Shortbread Cookies
The inspiration for these comes from the soft shortbread cookies at Otto’s Market in Germantown. They truly are the best cookies that I’ve ever had. This is a slightly healthier version, plus they are grilled! Besides keeping your kitchen cool, grilling gives the bottoms of the cookies an extra crispness.

I used rapadura in this recipe. Rapadura is dried sugarcane juice. It is rich in minerals, particularly silica and iron, so it offers a little more nutrients than the empty calories that you get from refined sugar. It still is sugar, so using it isn’t license to eat the whole batch.

I also used whole-wheat pastry flour instead of white flour. Whole-wheat pastry flour is made with soft-wheat and it has a fine texture. This makes it an ideal substitute for white flour when baking.

You can find rapadura and whole-wheat pastry flour at most health food stores or ask your grocer to stock it for you.

Ingredients

2 sticks of unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup rapadura (substitute brown sugar if you must)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon almond extract
1/2 cup rolled oats
2 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup chopped pecans (toasting is optional)

Method

  • Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, cream the butter, extracts, salt, and rapadura until smooth.
  • Add the oats and flour one cup at a time and mix well.
  • Stir in the pecans.
  • Scoop out about a fourth of the dough and place on a sheet of wax or parchment paper. Roll into a log with the diameter about the size of a silver dollar. Be sure the dough roll is firmly compact, so it doesn’t fall apart when you slice it. Repeat with all dough.
  • Cover and freeze the dough logs for at least 10 minutes. (You may keep these well wrapped in the freezer for several months. No need to thaw before you slice and bake.)
  • Prepare grill for indirect grilling. If using a gas grill, heat one side to medium-high and leave the other side off. If using a charcoal grill, light the briquettes. When they glow red, scoot them to the sides, leaving an empty space in the middle of the grill.
  • Cut dough into 1/2 inch thick slices. Place slices on an ungreased baking sheet. This baking sheet will go directly on the grill, so make sure that it fits. If you have a round grill, use a round pizza pan. These cookies don’t tend to spread much, so they can be placed within an inch or less of each other.
  • Place the cookie sheet on the indirect heat portion of the grill.
  • This is the tricky part. Close the lid but stay close by. You’ll need to keep checking on the cookies. On my grill, using indirect heat, they were done in about 10 minutes. My grill doesn’t heat evenly, so halfway through, I turn the baking sheet around. I only keep them on until the bottoms are slightly golden brown.
  • Cool on a wire rack.

If you have a nice air-conditioned kitchen, these cookies work beautifully in an oven heated to 350ºf, bake for 10-12 minutes, but where is the fun in that?