Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Shortbread Cookies

Shortbread Cookies
by Sandra & Shelby Simmons

The house is a wreck. The fridge is still full of Thanksgiving leftovers. We have expected and unexpected house guests arriving and departing, and kids home from college and then leaving to go back. We've pulled out the Christmas decorations and even the artificial Christmas tree that is so old, I don’t remember when we bought it. There are needles all over the floor, so the shop vac is in the house, too. There are piles of extension cords, a pile of Christmas lights that don’t work, and a more organized pile that does, empty boxes that need to go back downstairs, and full boxes (improperly labeled) still to be unpacked. Two trees are partially up, but not well fluffed and the uneven lights need some work. The cheap indoor light timers and the massive-looking outdoor light timers are on the couches and floors, and yes, the house is complete chaos! Willie and I love it. The noise, and the mess, and the food, and just everything.

My step-daughter, Shelby, made my mother’s shortbread last night and filled up the two-tiered cookie dish with them before she left. I decided to wait to photograph them in the morning, when I had some nice morning light. That was a mistake! Willie stayed up late last night to watch that quintessential Christmas movie…Pulp Fiction. He ate a few cookies.

We make these cookies every year. Everyone loves them, and Christmas is not complete unless several dozen are made and consumed by us, several more dozen made and given away to friends and neighbors. They melt in your mouth and they cannot be mailed no matter how carefully they’re wrapped. Too delicate.

This is a recipe my mother learned in a cooking class in British Columbia as a young woman. I actually had no idea where the recipe came from until Shelby asked me. I’d always assumed this was a recipe handed down through the ages from my Canadian mother, her Swiss mother, and so on. My mom will tell you the secret to this recipe is “all in the whipping”. The instructions include whipping for 10 minutes. If you have a Kitchen Aid, just set the timer. Otherwise, take turns holding the hand mixer so your arm doesn't get tired!

1 cup butter (room temperature)
½ cup powdered sugar
1 ½ cups flour
candied cherries or nuts, optional

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl and whip for 10 minutes. Don’t skimp on the whipping, it’s the secret to the cookie. Place the dough on an ungreased (I use parchment paper!) cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart. The cookies will end up being about 1 ½ inches in diameter so use that as a guide for how much dough to drop on the sheet. Place in oven for 10 minutes. The cookies retain their white appearance so don’t overbake them. Let them cool on the sheet for about 5 minutes before removing them to a wire rack. This helps them to keep their shape; they are delicate and break easily.

Personally, I think these cookies just don’t taste right unless there is a quartered red candied cherry on top. I can’t stand these cherries in any other recipe on Earth, but they taste great on shortbread. If you choose to put cherries or nuts on your cookies, do so before they go into the oven.


  1. These barely qualify as cookies, they are the whispers of angels. It would not surprise me if they spontaneously levitated off the plate. The dictionary definition of melt-in-the-mouth.