Wednesday, November 12, 2008

"We need a little Christmas!"

Shortly after the stock market crashes in the famous play and movie, "Mame," they sing the song, "We need a little Christmas!" and they bring out all the holiday decorations to raise their spirits. So, today as I listened to experts on the radio argue about whether we were in a recession or a depression and was looking at the headlines, The Coming Pink Slip Epidemic and Unemployment: How to Stop the Bleeding, I started to remember that song. When I heard another expert say that the odds of getting a job this holiday season are about 1 in 45, I thought that maybe a few of my blog readers might need a little Christmas now.

So, here goes ... Today, I started making cookies to prepare for the holidays. Three years ago, Katherine and I made cookies a couple times a week starting in November, doubling the recipe every time. We'd eat half the cookies now and put the other half in the freezer. Freeze them on a baking sheet so they don't stick together, then put them in a freezer bag or other freezer container. When you have guests over for the holidays, you can pull out a variety of five or six home-baked cookies and impress your guests. They only need about half an hour to defrost.

Today I baked one of my personal favorites, Scottish shortbread. My apologies if there are any people here from Scotland, as I'm sure I'm not doing it properly, but in my defense, I have to say that it works, and the cookies taste better than the ones you buy in the store. So here's my quick recipe:

3 sticks of butter (1 1/2 cups or 3/4 pound)
1/2 cup sugar
4 cups flour

Blend the softened butter with the sugar, then add the flour, one cup at a time. It will become crumbly, and you'll think that you've made a terrible mistake, but as long as you can pick up a handful of it, and it sticks together when squeezed, you're okay.

I pour out some of it on a piece of wax paper, then fold over the wax paper, and roll it to about 1/2 inch thickness with a rolling pin.

Then I use a knife to cut it into squares or diamond shapes. Place the raw cookies on your baking stone or pan and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Since there is no egg or leavening, they won't rise, so you can space them 1/2 inch apart and not worry about them running together.

I put the ugly (imperfect) ones out on a plate for us to eat now, and I freeze the perfect ones to bring out when guests come over during the holidays. When we did this three years ago, we had six different kinds of cookies by mid-December, so we could put out a platter of a dozen cookies, with only two of each kind. It looked very impressive, and our guests were so surprised to see a variety of home-baked cookies.

Before you write off the shortbread as too expensive because of the amount of butter, check the price of similar cookies at your local store. Yesterday I checked the price on a 12-ounce tin of Danish butter cookies, and they were almost $3! Now I have twice as many cookies for about the same price, and they are all natural.

By the way, if there are any Scottish blog readers, feel free to post your recipe in the comment section!


melanie said...

Only half Scottish here, but the recipe looks legit to me! It's my favorite cookie, and I make a lot of them for gift boxes. I force myself to think of them as Christmas cookies, or I'd be making them too often, and I'd be as big as a house!

Kara said...

How big is your freezer?! Great idea though. I think if my DH gets a deer and after the pigs are processed, and what I was able to put in the freezer from the garden, I am maxed out. I guess I will have to can more next year and buy a second chest freezer. I love all your ideas, thanks for sharing.

Deborah said...

Melanie ... Shortbread is probably my favorite cookie. I fell in love with them when I was in college and had a boyfriend whose mom was from England. She'd serve with with afternoon tea. I have also grown to think of them as Christmas cookies.

Kara ... We have a chest freezer and an upright. I usually put the cookies in freezer bags and put them in the door of the upright, so they don't get crushed or hidden. Glad you like the idea. Maybe you can find a couple little holes where cookies would fit.

Gizmo said...

What a great idea. Thanks for sharing it. Shortbread is my husband's favorite cookie, and he's on a mission to make it the grandkids' favorite too! :)


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