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