Grandma S’s Shortbread
makes about 5 dozen
70 g (½ cup) cornstarch
105 g (1 cup) icing sugar
430 g (3 cups) all-purpose flour
454 g (1 lb) salted butter, softened
maraschino cherries, sprinkles, nuts or grated chocolate for garnish (optional)
Combine cornstarch, icing sugar and flour in a large bowl and mix well with a whisk to combine and break up any lumps. Use a wooden spoon to blend in the butter until a soft dough forms. Shape dough into 2 cm (1 inch) balls and place on an ungreased baking sheet about 3 cm (1½ inches) apart. Using a floured fork, flatten the balls slightly creating a criss-cross pattern with the fork tines. Gently press in any decorations you are using.
Bake at 300°F for 15 – 20 minutes. Cookies should be just set and have little to no browning. Cool on sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to wire rack and cool completely.
I have previously written about my Ukrainian grandma. She lived on a farm and is the source of my love for baking and putting on a big spread. I also have a city grandma. Now to be honest her cooking brings up different memories first and foremost ketchup in chicken noodle soup…early food trauma for me. I also remember her making me my favourite meal whenever I spent the night…pork chops and scalloped potatoes. Oh how I loved those potatoes. The best part was scraping the burnt bits of potato off the baking dish. Her secret to those scalloped potatoes? A can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup. She was in the era of convenience foods, where Lipton’s and Campbell’s were always there to help with the perfect casserole.
But not all was from a can or a box; two things she did fabulously well were pickling things and make the most tender shortbread cookies. Her red and green pickled onions were a core part of my Christmas (as was “stinky feet cheese”…my grandfather owned a travel agency and travelled the world so he knew what a delicacy good aged Parmesan was). I still remember eating those tiny onions layer by layer!
But the real sign that Christmas was coming was Grandma’s shortbread appearing on our weekly visits to her house. She usually garnished them with maraschino cherries (red and green again), which to this day, I detest, but she always made some with sprinkles just for me! If you come to my house you will only find the sprinkle version!
Shortbread is basically butter held together with some starch. Here I use both flour and cornstarch. The cornstarch gives it the delicate crumb...that is pastry jargon for melt in your mouth! Note that while we almost always use unsalted butter for recipes, this recipe uses salted butter. They are simple, so even this close to Christmas you have time to whip up a batch (or two)!!