Agnes' shortbread

Father knows best!

Or at least Alex's does, when it comes to shortbread.

My late mother-in-law, Agnes Glennie, was a competent cook.  Yes, she was fairly conventional in her creations but all credit to her that she always bought the best cuts of meat (which she then stewed, but never mind), the freshest and highest quality produce from markets rather than supermarkets when possible, and she always excelled at baking.

If you ask any Glennie what they will remember her for when it came to her cooking, each of us would say without hesitation, that it was her Christmas shortbread.

Shortbread comes in many guises.  Dear reader, you will have your favourite recipe and preferred consistency and shape of this form of biscuit.  Some are 'shorter' than others. There are petticoat tails, rounds, bars and Sainsbury's used to produce a wonderful wholemeal variety that was not short in any way but that disappeared shortly after the packet was opened.

Agnes made several batches every December and it was never fail, never!   She used a set of ancient, sturdy and beautifully-shaped Christmas cookie cutters (as she only ever made it at Christmas and although it froze wonderfully, it only lasted a short time as we couldn't resist.  In times of crisis, Kit and I used to eat it straight from the freezer).  Sadly the cookie cutters were put in the charity box when her kitchen was being cleared out, but we found some suitably festive ones last month, dusted off the recipe, the rolling pin, then dusted the pastry sheet, rolled up our sleeves and got to work.  Actually it was David who made them on a dreary Sunday afternoon shortly before the New Year and they were such a success that he repeated the exercise again in January.  There may be some inherited baking talent hidden away after all.  David's shortbread was very good but not, even he will admit, quite the same as his mother's.  Still, there isn't much left of the batch he made yesterday.

For those of you who like shortbread, give this one a try?

(Use North American cups)

4oz butter
4 oz margarine
½ cup granulated sugar
½ tsp vanilla essence
2 cups plain (all purpose) flour, sifted
extra flour for dusting board and rolling pin

Cream butter, marg and sugar together with a electric mixer.  Agnes probably did it by hand but sometimes life is too short during the Christmas season.  Beat in the vanilla.  Add the flour gradually, beating in well and when it becomes too stiff for the beaters, use elbow grease, as it were!

Turn onto a floured board and knead a few times, adding more flour if the dough seems a bit sticky.  Roll out to a thickness of ¼" and cut into shapes.  Agnes used to decorate the top with red and green coffee sugar but we've yet to find that in the UK. The sugar adds a festive touch if you can get it.

Bake on an ungreased sheet at 150ºC (350ºF) for about 20 minutes.  They shouldn't be allowed to brown and if the edges are looking 'done' before the 20 minutes is up, then take them out at once.  Allow to cool on a rack.  Makes 24.

1 comment:

  1. I remember her shortbread! There were a few Christmases when we were all together and Agnes's shortbread was extraordinary. The best I have ever had, no question. If I ever see the same time of red and green sugar here, I will get some for you.