It is a truth universally acknowledged that when one returns to blogging after a rather long time, one must return with a tale of Whimsy! And boy oh boy what a tale of Whimsy this is...
Regular readers will recall the triumph of cake and book that was the Penumbra Party that launched Atlantic Book's publication of the extremely marvellous Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. Oh, how I LOVED that book and that party, so imagine my unutterable joy when a special orange envelope bearing the sign of the Society of the Unbroken Spine arrived on the doorstop of Whimsy!
I opened the envelope with trembling fingers, excited to have communication from the book store of my dreams! Mr Penumbra aficianados will know the importance of Gerritszoon to the entire world of books (I mean, even the quickest google will show you the extent to which Sloan has created a labyrinth of meanings, questions and queries through this font) so you may well be able to put yourself in my shoes and experience the same jaw-dropping, glittering joy that I did when my very own piece of Gerritszoon was attached to the note form Sloan himself in a packaging containing a beautiful slim hardback of the prequel to Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore - Ajax Penumbra 1969.
As you would expect, Sloan is a stickler for detail (as every good book seller and writer should be) so additional delight was created by the fact that my very own piece of the five hundred year old typeface was the letter 'D'.
Look! It glows! Anyway, so this wonderful gift got me thinking - howe could I show my love for Ajax Penumbra through the medium of baking? The only way truly to connect would be through typography and, luckily for me, I had just the perfect tool to do this...
Allow me to introduce the creation of LAPS: the Letter-pressed Ajax Penumbra Shortbread.
To re-create this recipe you will need:
200g unsalted butter
200g '00' plain flour
100g icing sugar
1 x teaspoon vanilla bean paste / one vanilla pod
grease proof paper
caster sugar to sprinkle on the shortbread
1 x copy Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
1 x copy Ajax Penumbra 1969
A set of cookie cutters
A special Japanese cookie imprinting letter set bought in Japan by my SIBF so you would have to ask special permission to borrow from me if you're serious about making these LAPS!
Set the oven to 160 degrees and line two baking trays with greaseproof paper.
Split the letters for your Japanese Letterpress set and spell out Ajax and Penumbra.
Sieve all of the flours and icing sugars together in a large mixing bowl.
Add the butter and the vanilla paste and, using a wooden spoon, cream the mixture into a dough.
TIP: the nature of this recipe makes the dough incredibly short (!) so you might find it goes through a very flaky stage before forming the dough. Don't be afraid of kneading it into a ball after the initial mixing.
When you have a dough resembling the above, wrap it in clingfilm and refrigerate for fifteen minutes. This will really help when you roll out the dough.
In the meantime, create your words using the Japanese Letterpress!
Take the dough out of the fridge, discard the clingfilm and set it between two sheets of greaseproof paper. Roll the dough out between the greaseproof sheets until it is about 5mm thick.
Cut into shapes (I like hearts and stars the best) and then apply the Letterpress!
It's like magic!!! The words come out beautifully and the cookies look truly amazing!
Would Mr Penumbra approve? I do hope so! They are truly bespoke LAPS!
Put in the oven and bake for approximately twenty minutes - it's probably a good idea to check them after fifteen minutes as the mixture is so short that it can turn quite quickly. You do want them to be golden before you remove them, but you don;t want them to burn.
I like this 'Double Penumbra' the best, I think!
Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool and then drench them in caster sugar while they are still warm.
Style with your favourite novel and prequel and stack'em high!
Curl up in a chair with a cup of tea, a book and several LAPS and you have the recipe for a blissful Sunday afternoon!
I'm off to San Francisco in the summer to walk in the steps of Ajax Penumbra, so will be back with news of the book store superstar anon.
In the meantime,
Silver Whimsy x