Issue 82 December, 2019
Life is short; eat the shortbread
Dear <<First Name>>:
Almost all of us have food traditions for family gatherings. Some food is expected, even demanded. Not all of the dishes are healthy, but my motto is “Everything in moderation – including moderation.” Life is too darn short to deny yourself the pleasure of whatever it is that sets your mouth watering. (In moderation.)
In my house, Christmas isn’t Christmas without shortbread cookies, made with my mother’s recipe.
My smudged, handwritten recipe card has the bare bones of Mom’s version of this delicious buttery cookie. There’s little instruction beyond the time and temperature for baking. You have to know that the butter needs to be soft before you start. You have to know that mixing is a hands-on affair. And mostly you have to know that the original quantity isn’t enough.
One-quarter of a pound of butter? Please. That won’t last a couple of days. I don’t think I've ever made this little. In fact, one memorable time, my best friend and I used two pounds of butter in one marathon mixing, rolling and baking session.
You don’t have to be that ambitious/crazy. But who are you kidding? If you make this shortbread, use an entire pound of butter. (Metric? Not when it comes to butter.) Just do it in two batches; it’s easier to handle.
This is the more realistic recipe to follow (times two):
1/2 cup fruit sugar
1 cup (1/2 lb) butter, softened
2 cups flour
about 1 tsp. vanilla
Cream together sugar and butter. Blend in vanilla. Mix in flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until crumbly. Work the dough together with your hands, somewhat like kneading bread, until it's smooth and sticks together. Roll out on a floured surface and cut with cookie cutters. Decorate with sprinkles if you wish. Bake at 350° F until golden brown, about 8 minutes, depending on how thick the cookies are. (Check at about 6 minutes.) Dust the cookies with fruit sugar when you take them from the oven and let them cool on paper towels. Then find a secret hiding place to store your buttery treasures!
More things to know:
- I use a fork to mix the dough, which is how Mom always did it. Friends with a fancy KitchenAid stand mixer will laugh at you if you do this.
- The more you work the dough, the better, unlike pastry dough.
- Fruit sugar is finer grained than regular sugar. It’s hard to find, but regular sugar is a perfectly acceptable substitute.
- I like my shortbread bite-sized and thin. Dad always liked a bigger, thicker cookie. Suit yourself.
What *are* your food traditions? Does shortbread make an appearance? Please hit reply and share. And here’s to happy holidays with loved ones and loved traditions.
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