My mother always made shortbread cookies at Christmas. Last year was the first year we didn’t have them. I told a few close friends after Mom’s death that I wanted to make them for Christmas in 2015. Family and friends looked forward to Mom’s shortbreads and having them would remind all of us that Mom was still with us. I wanted to go through a trial baking run first, and since Mark had most of the supplies and ingredients, we decided to embark on a shortbreads test run last Sunday at his place. I brought over Mom’s trusty cookie gun and salted butter while Mark supplied everything else. In spite of having Mom’s recipe, we did not use fruit sugar (Mark only had regular sugar) nor white flour (Mark only had whole wheat flour). The recipe still produced shortbread-tasting cookies but the flour was not right. I would have to get white flour when I made the cookies at home, which I was planning to do on my day off last week, Thursday, November 26.
On Monday I got all the ingredients called for in the recipe, including fruit sugar. I borrowed Mark’s hand mixer. Right from the start the mixer started overheating. I could smell it burning and it even smoked a bit. After I had added the fifth cup of flour the smoke really started coming out from where the beaters snapped into the mixer. I unplugged the mixer immediately and then worried that the smoke detector would go off. I had just started to mix the dough with all the ingredients when the mixer died on me. What would I do now? I didn’t panic, and thought about what people did before electricity: they kneaded dough by hand. So I continued to mix the dough and got it soft enough to load into the cookie gun. At first the dough kept blasting through the cookie pattern attachment whenever I pressed the trigger. I couldn’t figure out why the dough wouldn’t press through to form cookies. I sliced off six thin pieces from the cylinder of dough to see if I had gotten the recipe right. After nine minutes the cookies were done and they tasted just like Mom’s. I realized while the cookies were baking that the dough still wasn’t soft enough, so I applied more elbow grease kneading it. When I was done, the dough was then soft enough to push through the pattern and I made one dozen. I was afraid to make more on the cookie sheet in case I burned them. It wasn’t until later on in the afternoon that I was confident with the oven so that I could squeeze out two dozen at a time, when I had mastered the trigger and cookie gun pressure, without the fear of the whole lot getting burned.
On Friday I bought a new hand mixer, and made an enormous second batch of shortbreads yesterday (Sunday, November 29). By then I could punch out forty cookies at a time on a single sheet, so I spent less time baking today versus on Thursday. I also bought seven small cookie tins on Friday and filled them all up to the brim. I wrapped four tins and will take them to the post office on Monday morning to mail to close friends.
Here’s what my kitchen looked like today:
The cookies in the tin are ready to go (yet still need a few more to top it up); the ones on the flat black pan are cooling off, and the ones on the right are ready to go in the oven.
There are 35 cookies on this sheet yet by the end of the day I was punching out forty per sheet. We will have Mom’s shortbreads this Christmas!