Posted by: njbrown | September 3, 2012

Anna Olson’s Chocolate Shortbread and Raspberry Napoleons

Anna Olson’s Chocolate Shortbread and Raspberry Napoleons

I “met” Anna Olson (Canada’s banker turned celebrity pastry chef) about seven years ago when I was on the treadmill at the Y. Why the Y had a TV tuned to a show called Sugar where Anna demonstrated making really good things with high-calorie ingredients, I’ll never know. But as I slogged my way through a virtual Tour de France course day after day, what Anna’s show mainly did was make me hungry, and all I wanted to do was finish up my routine as quickly as possible and hit the cafe downstairs for at least a cookie. Calories burned never exceeded calories consumed in the cafe.

Life events ended my Y workouts, and Anna eventually went on to other shows that didn’t focus exclusively on sweet things, but this season on the Canadian Food Network, she is back with a wonderful series called Bake. Bake covers a wide variety of baked goods from chocolate mousse cake to brioche to Chelsea loaves, and in every episode, Anna gives pastry chef tips that I’d never heard before (for example, lightly oil your measuring cup before measuring molasses for easy pouring). Chocolate shortbread had been on my mind for months, but I hadn’t found a recipe that sounded good. When Anna did an episode on shortbread cookies, including chocolate shortbread made into Napoleons (defined by Anna as any stacked dessert), I decided to give it a try. (The traditional Napoleon is made with rectangular layers of puff pastry, but who am I to quibble?)

Anna is very clear that good shortbread must “snap.” She also made clear that you can’t over beat the sugar and butter in the first step, and it’s important to beat well for the desired texture. Anna made each cookie using a petal cutter, but said you could use a 2 ½ inch fluted one as an alternative. Having neither, I used a regular round cutter. If I were making these for company, I’d invest in a cutter with a pretty edge.

This is a gentle dessert. There are a variety of textures from the crisp shortbread to the silky whipped cream, to the in-between texture of the raspberries. George and I both found the chocolate shortbread quite pleasant – not too sweet, but definitely chocolaty. While Anna demonstrated using only three berries per layer, I used more because the ratio of berries to other flavors didn’t seem enough. Feel free to use as many or as few as you like.

Bon appetit!

Yield: Makes about 18 cookies


  Chocolate Shortbread

  • ½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup icing sugar, sifted
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder (regular or Dutch process is OK)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

  Dessert Assembly

  • ⅔ cup whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons instant skim milk powder (optional) Note:  I used confectioners’ sugar – about a tablespoon. The goal is to stabilize the shipped cream. Nancy
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ to 2 cups fresh raspberries
  • Icing sugar, for dusting


  Chocolate Shortbread

  1. For the shortbread, beat the butter with the granulated and icing sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. It’s an important step to beat the butter and sugar well together when making shortbread – this ensures the shortbread will hold together and when you take a bite it will ‘snap’ and then melt away.
  2. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, cocoa powder and salt. Add this to the butter mixture and stir until evenly blended.
  3. Shape the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about an hour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 325 F and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  5. Unwrap the dough and knead a little just to soften, making it easier to roll. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured work surface until it is just over ⅛-inch thick.
  6. Cut out cookies using a 2 ½ -inch fluted cutter and place carefully on the baking tray, re-rolling the dough if needed.
  7. Bake the cookies for 13-15 minutes until they lift easily when lifted with a spatula. Cool the cookies on the tray before removing.

  Dessert Assembly

  1. To assemble the desserts, whip the cream until it holds a soft peak, then whisk in the sugar, skim milk powder (optional, if you wish to whip the cream ahead of time – it will keep the cream stable for a full day) and vanilla.
  2. Spoon the cream into a piping bag fitted with a large star tip.
  3. To build the desserts, place a cookie on a plate and pipe a bit of cream in the centre. Arrange 3 to 4 raspberries around the cream (the cream will hold them in place) and top with a second cookie. Pipe cream onto the centre of this cookie and arrange 3 to 4 more raspberries around. Top with a final cookie and dust with icing sugar. Repeat with the remaining cookies.
  4. The desserts can be assembled up to 4 hours in advance of serving and stored chilled. The cookies themselves will keep up to a week in an airtight container.


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    • Thank you, Mara. So glad you enjoy it.

      Best wishes,


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