There's a story in our family that gets told year after year. It's about the time my sister and I ate all of my mother's shortbreads. Every single one. This year, it's bittersweet because it's our family's first Christmas without my mom.
My parents were gone on a 3-week anniversary cruise. Anxious at the idea of not returning until a few days before Christmas, my mother had done all of her holiday baking. Knowing her daughters well, she hid the shortbreads away. I was home on maternity leave with a four-month-old baby, and my sister was in her first term at university. Every evening she came over to work with me on her essays and to study for exams. She starting bringing over a few shortbreads each night, rearranging the contents of the tin to look like nothing was missing.
One night in anticipation of a long night of studying, she showed up with a tin. Recognizing it immediately as the “shortbread tin” I put on the kettle for some tea. Upon opening it, I realized we had a problem.
Most of the shortbreads were gone and our parents would be home in a few days. Naturally we thought it best to finish the cookies and bake a new pile from scratch. Except we're not kitchen-proficient and we didn't even know where our mom stored her recipes.
Concocting a story, I emailed my parents for the recipe, and they sent it to us. We then elicited my husband to make the shortbreads for us. Being the chef in the family, he agreed and we thought all would be well.
But none of them came out just right. They hadn't achieved the snow-white look of our traditional shortbreads. My husband baked batch after batch. They were piling up on to counter until we had some that were passable.
He carefully diced the red and green glace cherries and placed them on the cookies. We put them back in the tin and my sister returned them to their hiding place. We vowed never to eat the cookies again. A few days later our parents returned, and I got a call from my mom, asking what had happened to her shortbreads. Apparently, my husband hadn't placed the cherries in the spot she did. She knew immediately!
This year, I'm making the shortbreads and I want them perfect, just like my mom's. She always used Gay Lea salted butter because she thought it was the best for baking. The trick is to let the butter be room temperature for easy kneading and to bake the cookies on a low temperature. Here's the recipe for what I think are the best shortbreads.
Best ‘Classic English' Shortbread Recipe
- 1/2 lb butter
- 2 cups flour
- 2 tablespoon rice flour
- a pinch of baking soda
- 1/2 cup fruit sugar (dissolving sugar)
Knead butter by hand. Mix dry ingredients by hand.
Roll on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin to approximately 1/4 inch thickness. Place on an ungreased baking tray. Use your favourite holiday cookie cutters. Decorate with finely chopped glace cherries if you like.
Bake at 275 in a preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until bottoms are slightly golden. Transfer immediately to a cooling rack.
Disclosure: I am part of the Gay Lea Ambassador Campaign and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.