I decided to do some Christmas baking this year. It’s been a few years since I’ve done so but I was up for the challenge.
Every year my mom would make shortbread cookies and they weren’t just any old cookies. No, they were “Sheila’s Shortbreads,” the lightest, flakiest and butteriest cookies you’ll ever eat.
Sheila was a close friend of my mom, who sadly passed away from leukemia in her late 20’s or early 30’s. I’m not exactly sure how old she was but she left behind a very young family and I was still in grade school at the time.
Sheila was always top of mind when we’d have these cookies. And, when I grew up and moved out of the house, I began making them myself. Though without fail, I’d need to call my mom every year to get the recipe again! You see, I’d write it on a napkin or sticky note and eventually lose it. But that was okay as I could always get it from my mom.
A couple of weeks ago, after deciding to bake again, I woke up in a panic and gingerly opened the wooden box in the kitchen where some of my recipes were stashed. I needed to make sure I still had the recipe so I could make them this month. I knew if it wasn’t in there, it was lost for good because my mom passed away nearly four years ago. This was the first time I’d even wanted to bake since she’s been gone. Thank goodness I found it buried at the bottom of the box on a dog-eared recipe card. This story gets better. A dear friend [who happens to remind me of my mom in some ways] recently surprised me with a very special recipe keeper book that she’d put together for me for Christmas. Funny thing is, she had no idea of the panic attack I’d had a couple of weeks earlier. It’s like the universe was helping me keep my treasured recipes safe.
These cookies will forever be “Sheila’s Shortbreads” but now I find myself also thinking of them as “Mom’s Shortbreads,” since she made them for more than 50 years herself. I’m happy to share the recipe with you now.
½ cup icing sugar
½ cup cornstarch
1 cup flour
1 cup butter cut into chunks
Sift the dry ingredients together and then blend in the cup of butter. Do not mix too hard. [I used the lowest setting on my stand mixer.]
- Roll into small balls and flatten with a fork that’s been dipped in flour. If the dough gets too soft, simply put in the fridge for a few minutes.
- Bake at 300ºF for 20 minutes until lightly golden.
- Transfer cookies to a wire cooling rack.
The shortbread cookies are relatively easy to make. I usually double the recipe. Pay close attention when they are baking because they are very delicate and can easily overcook. They are also very fragile so be very careful when transferring to the cooling rack and to the storage container. My mom always garnished hers with a sliver of a maraschino cherry on top. I don’t like maraschinos so I used sprinkles instead. I also used a cookie press for part of my batch but it was tedious because the consistency of the dough didn’t work well with it. I found rolling the dough into small balls and flattening with a fork far was more productive!
On the “Sugar Scale” [my unofficial recipe rating system], this recipe scored 10 out of 10. For me, the smell and taste of these very special cookies conjures up memories of my childhood and of my mother, who I miss dearly. I am forever grateful to have had her in my life for almost 50 years. I will definitely make this recipe again next year. Merry Christmas!
The views expressed in this post are purely my own. See my disclosure policy for more information.