Shortbread

My former life and marriage had a lot of dark moments, but… I learned a lot of very useful and important things. I can operate a backhoe and chainsaw. I can peel logs, do a full scribe notch and build walls for a log home. I know how to leave space for windows so the settling won’t break the glass. I missed the part about raising the ridge pole and putting the roof on, but I bet I could find someone to do that for me. I learned to grow all my fruit and vegetables and preserve them for winter.  I can pickle, make jam and jellies and can fruit and veg until you think you will never run out of food. I can make quilts, sew clothes, knit and crochet sweaters, blankets and slippers. I know how to change oil, dig a trench (to run power and services from the road to the back of the lot) plus I can water ski, paddle a canoe down rapids and weld. All random things that I now have in my arsenal of skills. If there comes a time that the world might seem to be ending and everything is destroyed, I got you. I know what plants with keep scurvy away and you won’t starve. I can build you a home but not a roof – I am sure I can figure that out.  Come find me, we can start our own village. 

My favourite thing I learned during that time is the recipe for shortbread from the exhusband’s mom. I still make it every year and it is the one thing my brother loves, so I make sure he gets a generous batch. 

I was flipping through Amazon and looking at embossed rolling pins. They are so beautiful I decided to buy one for my shortbread this year.

It hasn’t arrived yet. It might take another 3 weeks. It looks like this:

I was taught to drop the dough onto the baking sheet and sprinkle with coloured sugar or red and green cherries. I did that once and decided …ew. No thanks. Plain is fine. So I use a cookie stamp. I roll the cookie out, stamp it and then use a cutter to get the perfect shape. I have a pottery stamp that I slipped into my suitcase when I left home. My mom wasn’t a huge baker, she is a French style cook and I baked. So I figured she may not notice it was gone until now, Hi Mom!

The stamp itself isn’t particularly beautiful but it is fun to stamp out designs. and I don’t know why I never bought a prettier pattern. But here were are. Now I wait for my new rolling pin.  It is not a Scottish Style shortbread, that is heavier and denser, also great but different.  This is the classic whipped shortbread recipe found on the cornstarch box, or rather you used to find it there, I haven’t seen it for years but I still have a copy taped to the inside of my cookie book. My cookie series has been so popular with you asking for more secrets. Since this recipe is not a family secret, this is for you. 

Idiotstick’s Mom’s Shortbread Recipe 

  • 3/4 cup softened salted butter – this is important – or add a pinch of salt if you use unsalted
  • 1 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch 

Preheat oven to 300 F. 

Sift together cornstarch, sugar and flour. beat together with butter in the mixer or by hand – mixer makes it lighter. I mix it for a long while. You think it will never come together and them, boom, it forms a ball and pulls away from the bowl. Then it is done. 

I roll out on a clean surface, do not flour. 

I stamp and cut the shapes and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. It helps to have an offset spatula to loosen the cookies from the counter. Alternatively, you can form balls and press with a stamp or fork. I bake for 20 minutes. take out just before the start to go golden on the edges. You want white cookies, not brown cookies. These are shortbread but if you over bake them, its not the end of the world. Paul Hollywood or Mary Berry are not in your kitchen. 

Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container. I like to freeze them and eat them cold, but I realize I am the only person on the planet who prefers this. 

See? Not the prettiest stamp but they taste amazing. 

The baking is done and so am I

gooey-cookies

A long time ago, perhaps only last year, I could take on more than humanly possible. I think it was genetic or stupid…without a substantial research grant, I will not be able to quantify the data. Let’s call it genetic, shall we?

When I was little, around 10ish, I was finally old enough to be a real help in the kitchen. One of my mom’s hobbies was cooking. When I say cook, I am not talking your run of the mill meat loaf or casserole. My mom was a Julia Childs fan in a BIG WAY. She watched Julia on cooking shows and Graham Kerr the Galloping Gourmet when ever she was home and could catch it on. These were the days before VCRs and my mom worked full time.

I would come home from school, call my mom and she would give me instructions on how to start dinner. She was very good at giving step by step instructions so I could visualize them in my head. Eventually, all of us kids learned to cook via the phone method and we would take turns preparing meals, all of us but dad. He was the official taste tester. It was his job to tell us “it was the best thing he every tasted” whether it was or not. I honestly believe that is why we all are better cooks than we use to be. He gave us the confidence to try new things. Even if it tasted like dog food, my dad would eat it and say it was the best ever!

Every year around the Grey Cup (Canada’s Superbowl…not really but it whatever) Mom would have finalized her Christmas Baking list and purchased all the supplies she needed. We would then get to work. By dinner time, the house would be filled with hundreds of cookies, squares, tarts and candy. The idea was, if you are making a mess in the kitchen, go big or go home. It was fun. Sometimes my grandma and aunt would come over and it would be a girls day baking. Those were fun times! I had kept up that tradition until this year.

Today I had the intention of baking several different batches of cookies and several buckets full of various flavoured candy popcorn. The result?

I made it as far as two batches of cookies and think “Who the hell is going to clean up this mess?” I am knackered.

Lemon Crinkles and Chocolate chip cookies made the cut. Ginger Sparklers and Short Bread may or may not get done this year. I am pretty sure tarts are out of the question. I did manage to whiz up the candy canes in the food processor for peppermint dust on the chocolate covered popcorn. But that is the extent of my ambition. Oh, and I made tea.

Now I need a nap.