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!