Monday, December 17, 2012

Sharing the Shortbread

Part of me loves the Christmas season and part of me hates it. When I was searching for a birthday card for my friend last week an elderly gentleman was standing next to me looking at the huge assortment of Christmas cards. He turned to me and said, "I'll be glad when the whole thing is over with." That perfectly sums up my feeling about the Christmas holiday when it comes to being assaulted by cheesy Christmas music, cheap, tasteless decorations (remember that horrific ornament I blogged about?) and the blatant consumerism that starts a full two months before the actual holiday.

But there are also the good things - the family traditions and time spent together eating, visiting, playing games and catching up on each other's lives. There are the memories from the past, and the memories being created to cherish in the future. Food is a huge part of our Christmas, and over the years certain things have become established as part of our Hammond family tradition. The list has expanded to the point I can't make every single item on it every year. Not even our family could possibly consume that much.

This year I decided to take a different approach. I decided to ask each of my kids and Jay what one Christmas item they would like me to make. Their answers would make up this year's baking list. I started with Jay. Here's how the conversation went.

"Everyone gets to pick the thing they like best and I will make it for Christmas this year. What would you like?"

I had barely finished the question before Jay answered, "Shortbreads."

Then after asking Karsten and David what they would like and getting the same answer, I changed the question to "Your dad has already picked shortbreads. What is your second choice for your favourite Christmas cookie or treat?" I have now finished all of my Christmas baking, but honestly, part of me thinks if I had only made shortbreads everyone would have been quite happy.

The recipe I make comes from Jay's mom. It is one of my most treasured possessions. She wrote it out for me over thirty years ago, and if our house was on fire I would grab the recipe box containing it before just about anything else I own. The writing is in pencil, and has faded over the years.


The cookie press I use also comes from Jay's mom. I don't have the same fond feelings about it that I do the recipe. In fact, if the house burns down this would be the item I would probably be the happiest to see incinerated. Every year I promise myself I will buy a newer, better cookie press. And every year I end up using this old beast. Because that's where tradition can end up biting you in the rear end. You see, if I didn't use the press with just the right tip on the end the shortbreads wouldn't be quite the same.

The address in the bottom left corner gives its age away. It pre-dates both zip codes and Chinese manufacturing.
Here's the problem with using it. Amputee cookies.


It makes a huge batch, but I guarantee they will all be eaten before the holidays are over.


Here is my Christmas gift to you. Romaine's shortbread recipe. The key is the rice flour, so if you decide to make these be sure you don't leave it out.

Shortbreads

6 cups flour
4 cups butter
2 cups sugar
1 tbsp. rice flour 
1 tsp. salt

Cream butter and sugar, then work in the flour, salt and rice flour. (You will have to use your hands to work in the flour.) Bake for about 15 minutes at 300F. Watch them closely as there is a very narrow window between perfection and disaster.


Serving suggestion: Eat lots and consume with tea.

31 comments:

  1. Yum. What did everybody else pick? From the traditional lineup I think I would've said gingerbreads, but then I would've gone all out if I had an oven.

    I miss making the nanaimo bars.

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    1. Karsten picked candy cane cookies, David picked snickerdoodles, Alexandra picked Nanaimo bars and Kellen said he was happy with whatever (I think he only cares about the shortbreads!). I figured if you were here you would have picked gingerbread men. It was a good guess! Yes, I missed you making Nanaimo bars too. It meant I had to do them and you have made them for so many years now I sort of forgot how to do them. Wish you were here to share the cookies with.

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    1. Wow! I don't think I have ever been pinned before. Which picture did you pin?

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  3. Thanks Kristie! Thank you on two levels; firstly, thank you for the shortbread recipe. I will definitely be trying it. And secondly, thank you for reminding me that I've always wanted a cookie press. Now I have an excuse to go hunting for one. :)

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    1. You're welcome Ev! I am surprised my blog post inspired you to go buy a cookie press though. I thought I had probably scared most people away from using one. :-)

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  4. Thank you, Kristie! Excited to try these. Must they go through a press, or is there some way to roll/drop/shape them?

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    1. You're welcome! They don't have to go through a press. I just do it because that is what everyone here expects. :-) You could do them another way if you wanted. Using a mold, or rolling them and cutting slices to bake would work best. Just remember to adjust the cooking time accordingly. Enjoy!

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    2. That's great! They're on my list for this weekend. Thanks so much for sharing them with us.

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  5. You could have been writing about me in your opening paragraphs. Hate the hype but love the tradition. I'd be happy to forget presents etc and just have family and food

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    1. We have cut way back on the presents and that has helped immensely. It keeps the craziness of shopping to a minimum. We draw names and buy that person a gift. We put a $25 limit on it, and we also have everyone contribute $25 and we pick a charity to donate it to. We settled on this a few years ago and everyone seems happy with the arrangement.

      You are right, family and food are the most important.

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  6. Gingerbread or shortbread, gingerbread or shortbread ... impossible choice, I'd have said both.

    No cookie press here, I just cut slices from a roll, but I shall try your recipe, thank you Kristie :)

    And yes, I'm really looking forward to Boxing Day!

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    1. I would love to roll them, but then they wouldn't be the way everyone remembers them from Christmas past. Maybe one year I will get really brave and try doing them that way. It would simplify things so much to not have to use that old cookie press.

      You sound like my daughter Rebekah. She loves gingerbread! And yes, Boxing day has a lot of appeal. :-)

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  7. They look really yummie...thank you for sharing it.

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    1. Thanks! They are yummy - they melt in your mouth. Not a surprise with all of that butter!

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  8. Your shortbread look so delicious and pretty using the press. I always make my mother in law's Christmas pudding as it is so nice to feel that a part of her is still joining us in our celebrations.
    It sounded a good idea asking your family for their preferences like you our customs and food have extended over the years.
    Sarah x

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    1. Thanks! Yes, I have to admit they do look pretty when they come out of the cookie press. That, along with the fact this is what we have always had, are the two reasons I keep making them like this. That's nice you have been able to carry on your mother-in-law's tradition too by making the Christmas pudding.

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  9. OH, my gosh! You're going to share your recipe with us! I feel so special being in on this!

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    1. The comment below was meant for you Michelle!

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  10. I'm not sure this recipe is all that different from ones you could find if you Googled "shortbread cookies" with the exception of the rice flour. And that one tablespoon makes all the difference. I hope you get a chance to try making them!

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  11. I have the same ancient cookie press with the same problems. My mother's spritz cookies had cream cheese and orange zest. I don't make them every year, but maybe you'll have inspired me.

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    1. I can't believe you have the same cookie press! Does the box yours is in say $3.95 on the side? And you have no idea how much better it makes me feel to know you have trouble using it too. I have always wondered if there was something I was doing wrong. :-)

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  12. There's nothing wrong with amputee cookies, because those are the ones that don't count when you eat them ;) They look awesome, and so festive!

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    1. Thanks for pointing out the amputee cookies don't have any calories! :-)

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  13. Thank you so much! I have been searching for an egg free cookie press recipe nd this will be perfect!

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    1. I'm glad it is what you have been looking for. Good luck with your cookie press!

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  14. Considering that the cookie press was only gauranteed for one year, the family has certainly gotten it's money's worth. I laugh when I find myself doing something the hard way because of tradition--but then I still do it that way. Someday circumstances will take away traditions, might as well stick with them as long as I'm able. :)

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    1. That cookie press was made back in the days when things were made to last. As far as traditions go, yes it is nice to keep up with them as long as they don't become a burden. Over the years I have given myself permission to stop doing a few that were more trouble than they were worth. The gingerbread house out of the mold from LL Bean seems in danger of falling into that category. This is the third or fourth year in a row I haven't made it.

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  15. I'm not sure I've ever even had shortbread. I may try this recipe just to see what all the fuss is about! Although I'm glad that you responded above on what to do if you don't have an ancient cookie press! ;) My request every year are buckeye balls. Although somehow I'm the only one that ends up making their own treat. Huh.

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    1. Please let me know what you think if you try making them! If you don't have time to make them, there is a very good brand of shortbreads you should be able to find at the store called Walkers. Highly recommended! And what in the world are buckeye balls?

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    2. Buckeye balls are peanut buttery goodness dipped in chocolately goodness. ;) Basically you mix pb with butter and confectioners sugar and some vanilla and then roll them into small balls. after they chill, you melt some chocolate chips with a bit of crisco and then using a toothpick, dip the balls into the melted chocolate until only the top is not covered by chocolate. Then chill and eat. They are excellent. If you are curious, I can shoot you the recipe...

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