Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Cookie Exchange

At some point on Saturday, Jill said to me, "So what are you bringing to Cheryl's cookie exchange tomorrow?" And I said, "You mean next week." And she said, "No, tomorrow." And I said, "Oh, crap."

Apparently, I've not done a great job of getting everything on my calendar like I should. And if you haven't gathered it from the last two posts, I was VERY BUSY on Saturday. So in my down time (otherwise known as driving long distances) I thought about what I had at my house that I could throw together before church on Sunday. I knew there was some butter in the freezer I bought on sale. This led me to the great epiphany...I could make shortbread! Never mind that the last time I made it, it was a dismal failure. It only has three ingredients which were all in my house, and now I have a KitchenAid! I could do no wrong!

Before I went to bed in the wee hours,  I jumped online and found a couple recipes that seemed like they would work, put the butter on the counter to defrost, and went to sleep.

In the light of day, this task looked a bit more involved, but I didn't have time to go buy more ingredients, so shortbread it was. I threw the butter in the mixer and tried to make it "light and fluffy." This is hard when the room temperature of your house is around 60 degrees. Did I mention that the only insulation in my 1898 Victorian abode is old newspaper? I kid not. Eventually the butter went through the blade enough times (and me scraping it off the blade a bazillion times) so it looked kind of fluffy. I threw in the brown sugar and spent another 10 minutes trying to get everything to stop sticking to the beater. Eventually I gave up and started adding flour. Finally, the dough seemed to come together. I quickly patted it into a disk and wrapped it so it could chill while I was at church. I figured I was rolling it out anyway so a disk would give me a head start.

After church, I turned on the oven and took out the dough. I had read an idea of putting down parchment paper, putting the dough on top, and then more parchment paper so to avoid a stickage issue. I needn't have worried. Did I mention that my house was around 60 degrees? I could not get the dough to roll out. I probably should have let it sit and warm up (good luck!) for a little bit, but I was trying to get done quickly so I could get to Cheryl's. I just kept rolling and swearing and trying not to throw the dough on the ground. Because of the bottom piece of parchment paper, I couldn't get any traction on the countertop while trying to roll it. So I swore some more (so much for going to church) and finally got it into a semi-even thickness. I had dreams of cool cut out shapes, but after all the drama, I just patted it into a rectangle and used a knife to cut it into squares. My original driving-long-distances dream was to dip half of it in chocolate so they would be super pretty. Oh, well. One more good intention paving my road to hell. So my cookies looked very boring. I remembered that sometimes people prick shortbread. So I got out my fork and went to town.

The end result didn't look too bad. So I popped it in the oven and crossed my fingers. There were some scraps left over, so I put them together to re-roll into some snacks for me. Of course, now the dough rolled out beautifully as it had gotten warm enough. Sigh. After about 20 minutes I ended up with this.

Ooooooooooh. Aaaaaaaaah. Ohhhhhhhhhh. Aren't you impressed? I am. I was sure my many foibles along the way had doomed these cookies. But they actually came out looking dang good if I do say so myself. They tasted great, too. Which leads me to believe it must be pretty darn hard to screw up shortbread. Which then leads me to the question of Then How Did I Mess It Up So Badly the Last Time I Made It? This will be the title of my pending doctoral dissertation. Coming forthwith. Habeus corpus. E pluribus unum.

Did I spell those right? Spellcheck doesn't like Latin.

Here's the recipe I used. It came from Pinch My Salt, a blog I found while cruising for recipes.

Brown Sugar Shortbread

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl. By hand, stir in flour a little at a time. Dough will be crumbly, so dump it out onto a counter top or pastry board and work it together by hand until smooth. Pat or roll dough out into a rectangle that is about 1/2 inch thick. Cut into small squares, rectangles or diamonds (whichever you prefer). Arrange cookies on an ungreased baking sheet (I use parchment paper for easy cleanup) and bake 20-25 minutes in a preheated 325 degree oven until the bottom edges are just starting to brown.
Obviously, I skipped the whole hands-on part. Maybe it would have been easier if I'd done it the way the recipe says. But I have a KitchenAid!!


  1. Love reading your blog. Your shortbread looks yummy, never tried it with brown sugar before. Did you know it is snowing on your blog? Cool!

  2. I'm glad you enjoy it. It's nice to know someone out there is.

    The shortbread was very good. I almost hated to give it away. The brown sugar added a little different flavor.

    Also, it took me an hour to get it to snow on here. I saw it on someone else's and kept doodling around online until I got it. I'm hoping all the snow on here will cause a Snow Day so I can stay home. It's supposed to get colder this weekend...

  3. um... is that really a paper plate that you chose for presenting your yummy shortbread cookies?!!!! oh, and I'm really not a big fan of snow; we don't get snow days at the tea room!

  4. Those look absolutely delicious and beautiful! They are going to go on my cookie list for the holiday! The pricking effect is lovely, and I will have to do the same when I make them.

    Hope you are able to stay warm this winter, 60 degrees seems a little cold. At least baking heats up the house a little bit right?:)

  5. They look great! Um...a little trick. Use the microwave to soften up your butter. Just, try not to melt it!

    We've got snow predicted and I'm not really looking forward to it. Brrrrrr...

  6. Laurie: I was planning to leave them at my friend's house, so I didn't want to use a real plate. I was pretty excited that I had a paper Christmas plate left from last year. Go me! And how can you not get snow days if you're in charge?

    Nichole: They really aren't that much work if you're planning ahead (unlike me.) Let me know how they turn out. And yes, I sometimes use the oven as an extra heat source. Sad but true!

    Susan: Where were you when I was freaking out about this on Sunday? Why didn't I think of that? Probably because I was busy freaking out. Oh, well!

  7. Im going to have a go at this one..the last ones my daughter and I made were a flop... youve gotten me intrigued on the pig candy...mmmm


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