The butter’s perfume still envelopes me even though my bake-a-thon was months ago. Seven pounds of butter, proportionally blended with flour, rice flour, superfine sugar and a hefty pinch of coarse salt, transformed into 400 shortbread cookies.
Looking at the photos transports me back to the kitchen and the aroma from the dough clinging to my hands, then wafting its sweet scent from the oven. I can hear the laughter and chatter and the playlist provided by my baking partner.
My niece Lauren was getting married and I hesitantly offered to make the cake. Thank goodness she already had that covered! Smart girl knew to leave the cake decorating to the experts. Instead, we decided on cookies. Two per person, wrapped and ribboned, as party favors.
I commandeered my sister’s Florida kitchen and convinced my daughter Sara to skip the beach and join me in the baking fun. Six hours later, every surface of the kitchen was decorated with delicate cookies.
It took us a while to hit our stride, but before long, we developed a method to our madness. I made the dough, slicing four sticks of cool butter, tossing it with the dry ingredients, then mixing in the KitchenAid mixer on low. It turned from butter and flour into an elegant dough in minutes.
I scraped the dough onto a big sheet of parchment, passed it to Sara, then mixed another batch. Then another, and so on. Sara rolled the dough into balls and dipped them in sugar, then pressed with a custom stamp with a three-letter monogram that the bride had ordered. Then into the oven, set the timer and press ahead. Periodically, Sara would stretch her arms to relieve her burning deltoids.
We managed numerous math problems, hoping that we had the right equation to get our cookie count finished so we could clock out of the kitchen in time for an airport run. “Don’t forget to account for a burned pan,” Sara taunted. It’s inevitable, the pan of burnt cookies. Miraculously, not a single cookie burned. Our choreography finally measured up.
While we focused on our baking project, we wove in stories and wondered who would be the next to get married. Sara helped with some out-loud editing of my book (so nice having an editor in the family!), and we raised our lemonade glasses to my sister Lisa who is the Shortbread Queen.
Love and laughter in the kitchen, plus a little slapstick comedy made for the perfect way to start the celebration of the big family wedding. Every little flashback to this bake-a-thon puts a smile on my face and I’m surrounded with the sweet fragrance of butter.
My sister Lisa started the tradition of making shortbread for weddings and she reluctantly shared her secret recipe with me. It originated from Lisa’s friend’s Scottish aunt. This is my interpretation of Aunt Agnes’s classic recipe. This recipe can easily be halved for a quick baking project when the shortbread craving strikes.
Makes about 5 dozen
- 4 cups unbleached flour
- 1 cup rice flour
- 1 cup superfine sugar*
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (I love JQ Dickinson Salt)
- 1 pound cold unsalted butter, cut into thin slices
- Additional sugar for baking the cookies
Combine the flour, rice flour, superfine sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl (preferably for an electric stand mixer) and toss in the butter slices. Mix on low speed until a dough forms, scraping bowl as needed.
Heat oven to 325. Shape the dough into balls the size of walnuts and dip in sugar. Place the balls about one inch apart on parchment lined baking sheets (do not use dark sheets which will cause the cookies to burn). Press each sugared dough ball with a cookie stamp.
Bake each sheet until cookies are light golden, about 18-20 minutes, rotating the sheets after 10 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough. Cool the cookies on a rack before packaging.
*if superfine sugar is not available, you can make your own. Blend 3/4cup granulated sugar in a blender on high speed for a minute or so, until the sugar is very fine. This will make 1 cup of superfine sugar.
Custom cookie stamps can be ordered from cookiestamp.com