Photo credit: Tracey Kusiewicz
Since the holiday season is officially upon us, I’ve decided to run twelve days of Christmas cookies to take us through the December baking season. I’m always looking for new cookie inspiration, so thought I’d share some classics – and some new finds – to inspire Parents Canada readers as well.
What better place to start than with Canadian food icons Rose Murray and Elizabeth Baird? I recently had the pleasure of spending time with them at Christmas in November at the Jasper Park Lodge – it’s an amazing event, and not only did I have the chance to watch them in action at their cooking session, we ate a few meals together, danced, and had tea overlooking Lac Beauvert. These two have inspired me as a baker since I was a kid, and you can’t get more classic Christmas than cookie press shortbread. And so we begin here. This comes from Canada’s Favourite Recipes, by Rose Murray and Elizabeth Baird (Whitecap) – one of my favourite books (for obvious reasons), and a great gift for any Canadian cookbook lover on your list.
Cookie-Press Short Shortbread
Ever since the 19th century, when Scottish settlers started bringing us recipes for this rich butter cookie, shortbread has appeared on Canadian holiday trays of fancy cookies and little cakes. Always containing butter, sugar and flour, it has many variations.
This recipe has been made by the women in our family (and now Asher, my son) every Christmas since 1920 and maybe even before that. I named it “short shortbread” as a bit of a play on words because my mother, Joyce Loudon Short, made it and because it is the shortest (most buttery, melt-in-your-mouth) shortbread I have ever eaten. Using a cookie press (see Note), it is also the easiest cookie anyone will ever make. Over the years, I added a little more butter to make this recipe even shorter.
2 cups (500 mL) salted butter
3/4 cup (175 mL) icing sugar
1/2 cup (125 mL) cornstarch
2 1/2 cups (625 mL) all-purpose flour
In a large bowl, using a wooden spoon, cream together the butter, icing sugar and cornstarch until light and fluffy. Gradually stir in the flour. Do not chill.
Using a cookie press, press the dough into festive shapes onto ungreased rimless baking sheets. Decorate with silver balls or coloured sugar.
Bake in the centre of a 300°F (150°C) oven until the bottoms are light golden, 20 minutes for small cookies and 25 for larger ones. (Make-ahead: Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 1 month.) Makes about 5 dozen cookies, depending on size.
Rolled Shortbread Cookies: Increase the flour to 3 1/2 cups (875 mL) and chill overnight. Roll to 1/4-inch (5 m) thickness. With floured cookie cutters, cut into desired shapes and place on ungreased baking sheets. Decorate as desired, and place in the centre of a 325°F (160°C) oven. Immediately reduce the temperature to 275°F (140°C) and bake until firm and golden on the bottom, about 20 minutes.