Many children, in preparing for their visit from Santa, like to leave him a snack. You may also be trying to think of a last-minute gift for someone and you've hit dead-ends in coming up with a solution. What to do? Let's make a special cookie that can remedy both these situations: "Scotch Shortbread".
Shortbread is a rich butter cookie that many people love. This is a cookie that's popular world-wide, but originated in the British areas of the world, particularly Scotland. You can buy shortbread in many stores, though that wasn't always the case. Up until several years ago, this cookie had to be ordered from mail-order food catalogs. If you were fortunate enough to attend a Scottish cultural event where vendors were there to sell their goods, you could buy boxes and tins of this popular cookie there. Now, it can be bought pretty much in any major food, variety and discount store. Though I know I can buy it, I actually enjoy making it and you may decide you will also, once you try this recipe.
The recipe is very simple and basic. You cream butter and sugar, then work in flour and cornstarch, along with a bit of salt. Cornstarch is the ingredient that gives this shortbread an interesting flavor and texture. This makes a stiff dough, much like sugar cookie dough. The dough is molded into a flat cake and decorated with a fork to make ridges around the edges. A sprinkling of sugar goes over the dough and it's then ready for the oven.
Once baked, the shortbread can be cut into wedges with a knife or left whole and pieces broken off as it is eaten. Store in an airtight container and it keeps very well. For a gift idea, place the shortbread in a pretty Christmas tin and include the recipe to give to the recipient. Your last-minute gift problem is now solved and you'll have some cookies to leave for Santa....but keep a piece for yourself to enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee!
If you plan to make this for entertaining, a good cup of punch would be good with this. I shared some recipes last year for non-alcoholic beverages that would be great over the holidays. To get them, follow this link:
Make a batch of shortbread and this will solve any last-minute food gift situations!
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup cornstarch
- a pinch of salt
- additional sugar to sprinkle on top (optional)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In an electric mixer or food processor, cream the butter and sugar together. Meanwhile, sift together the flour, cornstarch and salt. Gradually add dry ingredients, being careful to not overmix. Remove from the bowl and place on a lightly floured board or pastry cloth. Knead until well blended and smooth, about 1-2 minutes.
Divide dough into three parts. Place each portion of dough on a greased cookie sheet, shaping each ball into a round cake about 7 inches in diameter and 3/8 inch high. Sprinkle with sugar, if desired. With a sharp knife, score each circle into eight pie-shaped pieces. To decorate the top, prick with a fork to make a design. Outer edges maybe fluted or pressed with the tines of a fork.
Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and separate pieces by cutting along the scored lines with a knife. (This may be left whole and pieces broken off as it's eaten.) Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely. Store in an airtight container. Yield: 2 dozen portions.