Last year, I did this guest spot for Liz at The Blue Eyes Owl, and I wanted to share it with you!
When Liz asked about people's unique holiday traditions, I was thinking, well, we have family traditions, but there's nothing really super-special about it, except that we get to spend it together. My mom's family is quite large and we spend Christmas eve together, and then my dad's family, which is not exactly small either, spends Christmas day together. It's really fun to get to see most all of our family within a 2-day span.
Anyway, as I started thinking about it, I realized that I do make a special treat each year in honor of my dad's family heritage. His parents were both Scottish immigrants who came over in the 1920s. Though I never got to meet my grandfather, when we would visit my grandmother, she always made strong tea for the grown-ups (and had a nice plaid tea cozy for the pot) and had cookies ready. Shortbread has always been a favorite of my dad's, and my mom and I would often get him a box of Walker's for Christmas or his birthday (which are two weeks apart).
Years later, I started making shortbread for him and my uncles every Christmas. I have a recipe from Good Housekeeping 1999 that I have found to be the best and I've made it every year since. It is very easy to make- only four ingredients- even for the most hesitant baker. GH calls it pastry-like, but I would refer to it more as crumbly and flaky. Great with a cup of tea.
1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened (No substitutions! Margarine will make it chewy.)
1/2 cup confectioners' (powdered) sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a square 9" by 9" metal pan with foil. (8" x 8" is ok, too- just adjust your baking time to account for thickness.)
In a large bowl, with a mixer at medium speed, beat butter and sugar until creamy, occasionally scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula.
With clean hands, mix flour and baking powder into butter mixture just until crumbs form. Do not overwork the dough or it will be tough.
Pat the crumbs into the baking pan. (As done by my helper.)
With a fork, prick the dough all over in a decorative pattern. Or straight lines if you're me.
Bake shortbread 35 to 40 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Use the foil to lift the baked shortbread out of the pan.
Transfer to a cutting board, and while still warm, cut the shortbread into 3 strips, then cross cut it into 8 strips (24 pieces total). Cool pieces completely on a wire rack. Store the cookies in a tightly covered container up to 1 week. I'm going to freeze mine until Christmas.
See? Nothing to it. I hope you decide to give these a try. They are a great, classic holiday treat. Enjoy!