Saturday, 9 December 2017

Smells Like Christmas

Baking Nana's Scottish Shortbread 

I got my shortbread recipe from my mother, who got it from her mother (who may have had it from hers). I have no idea how old this recipe might be but it could have come over from Scotland about 1912. One thing is certain: it would not be Christmas without it. Come and join me in the kitchen while I make this year's batch. Would you like a cup of coffee?

Tools, Ingredients and Oven Are Ready

Every shortbread recipe is pretty much the same, of course: butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, pinch of baking soda and flour. In this photo, I have everything assembled and the oven is preheating.

The method is important: you make this entirely by hand. As you can see, my treasured mixer is parked under its dust cover today. It will come into play for other cookies but shortbread must be made by hand. At first, I use a sturdy spoon but, when adding the last of the flour, I blend it in with my hands. I have tried using a mixer for the initial creaming of butter and sugar but it kinda ruins the texture. Maybe it's a Scottish things? You have to work to get a worthwhile reward? That's true of more than shortbread, of course.

A Spoonful of Sugar (at a Time)

The most observant among you will notice that the top photo shows a metal kitchen spoon while this one is very clearly a wooden spoon. Simple reason – the metal spoon is fine for adding the sugar and/or flour to the bowl but your hand will hate you if you do not use a sturdy, round handled wooden spoon for mixing. This is work! I love that old bowl. I bought it the year we got married and it is a vital part of Christmas cooking. I simply could not make shortbread, Christmas pudding, or enough stuffing for a large turkey without it. (I think I've had that spoon almost as long!).  In this photo, I have finished the creaming and am beginning to add the flour. Before I get to plunging both hands in, would you like some more coffee?

Ready for the Oven

One traditional approach to shortbread is to pat and roll the dough into a circle (or two, depending how much you are making) and cut it into wedges. I inherited my mother's rectangular, serrated edge metal cookie cutter (wonder how old that is) and always use it. Place the cookies on baking pans, prick each a couple of times with a fork and put into the oven. They take 18 to 20 minutes and should be golden on the bottom and barely colored on top when ready.

Now, while these are baking, I will have my cup of coffee. Sorry you can't smell them here.

Let the Festivities Commence 

Above: cooling them on racks. When utterly cold, they go into an air-tight container to wait for the first of the Christmas parties. Glad you could join me. 

P.S. If you actually crave my grandmother's recipe, just send me a note at <> Nana would be happy to have me share it. Nana was the queen of Christmas in my family and I will never stop missing her.