Santa’s Shortbread

20161209_130916 One of my favourite cookies for the holidays is shortbread.  Its rich buttery taste just gets me in the mood for sitting in front of a warm cozy fire with a mug of hot chocolate and these great cookies.  This is also the perfect cookie to set out for the jolly old elf himself for his yearly visit.

It has been said that shortbread originated in Scotland.  Leftover bits of dough would be made in little disks and baked on the side of the fire.  Biscuits were literally twice baked and that’s where the word came from: ‘bis’ – twice/two and ‘coctus’ – cooked in latin became bescuit in Old French and eventually biscuit in English.  Butter gradually replaced yeast as dairy farming became more popular in Scotland.  You may wonder why it’s called shortbread as it doesn’t really resemble any type of bread we know now.

Butter, the defining ingredient in the recipe, is often listed as “shortening,” hence the cookie’s name: “short (ening) bread.” In fact, butter is so integral to the cookie that in 1921 the British government legislated that any product called shortbread must contain at least 51% fat derived from real butter. Thank you Britain for keeping the rich cookie tradition alive.

The high butter content produces a crumbly texture. Fat inhibits gluten, a protein in wheat, which allows dough to rise. Gluten gives dough a chewy texture. Higher fat content slows down gluten. Its protein strands are then shorter, rather than longer, producing a more crumbly texture rather than a chewy one.  This particular shortbread is whipped instead of made into a dough and pressed into a mold or cut into cookie shapes.  Because it’s whipped the cookie can be piped with a piping bag.

Preheat your oven to 350F.  You’ll start by whipping in a standing mixer with the paddle attachment.  I recommend using a standing mixer instead of the handheld kind, just because it has more power.  This is a stiff batter and the smaller mixer might not be able to handle it.  So, whip the butter and shortening until fluffy.  On low speed add the flour, cornstarch, icing sugar, and extracts and whip on medium/high until light and fluffy.   The batter should be stiff, but soft enough to pipe.

Place batter in a piping bag with a large star tip.  I have a massive wax piping bag and I used a Wilton #4 star.  Note, fill with bag about 20161209_104650half way with the batter.  Your hands will thank you later.  If the bag is too full then it will be really hard to pipe the cookies.

Pipe rosettes with the piping bag by making two circles on top of each other with the batter and end in the middle of the cookie.  The batter should be about an inch or so high.  It will flatten with baking. Leave about two inches between each cookie and try to do alternate spacing with the rows by piping the next row of cookies slightly lower than the previous row.  This way the cookies will have room to spread and you can fit a little more on each tray.  I use Silpat liners for my cookie trays but you can also use parchment.

Place a piece of glace cherry in the middle of each cookie (or use holiday sprinkles) and bake for 10-12 minutes.  The cookies will flatten out and be slightly darker, but not much.  If there’s browning around the edges then they may be over-baked, resulting in a tough cookie.  Let the shortbread cool on the pan for about five minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.  Enjoy with a cool glass of

Cooling cookies.
Cooling cookies.

milk or your favourite hot beverage.


Print Recipe
Santa's Shortbread
These light whipped shortbreads are perfect for a visit from St. Nick.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Servings
dozen
Ingredients
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Servings
dozen
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. In stand mixer whip butter and shortening until fluffy. Turn mixer to low and slowly add flour, icing sugar and cornstarch until incorporated. Add vanilla and butter extract. Turn mixer to medium/high and whip batter until light and fluffy.
  2. Using a piping bag with a star tip, place batter into the bag until the bag is about half full. Twist bag shut and pipe rosettes on a Silpat lined baking sheet. Top each rosette with a piece of glace cherry. You may use colourful sprinkles if you wish. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the colour has changed slightly and the cookie has flattened.
  3. Let cool on the pan about five minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes 4-5 dozen.
Recipe Notes

If you don't have Silpat liners, just use parchment.

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Snowballs

Well, it’s the start of December and all the magazines, shows, and shops are filled with the sights of the season.  If you haven’t already, it’s time to start with your holiday baking.  I know that some of you have already started, possibly even started in the summer, but this quintessential Newfoundland Christmas treat is a must have for anyone.

One of the things you will always find in every Newfoundland cookbook for the holidays is a recipe for snowballs.  For as long as I remember these have been a requirement for holiday baking.  My mother would make dozens for the holidays and keep them in a metal tin on the freezer lined with waxed paper.   Every couple of days my brother and I would go to the freezer, grab one each, and sloppily rearrange the remaining so you couldn’t notice one had been takeSnowballsn.

The lovely little bites are a mixture of chocolate, oatmeal, and coconut.  The recipe I use is found in the Purity cookbook and is originally meant as a bar.  The snowballs are offered as an alternate way.  Personally, I’ve only known people to make them as balls, so feel free to try them out as a bar.

These are great slightly chilled, as they get a bit too soft when left to warm to room temperature.  Truthfully, there’s enough coconut and sugar in them, they don’t really freeze solid.  So, I’ve enjoyed them straight out of the freezer.  They’re called snowballs for a reason, right?

Melt butter and chocolate in a saucepan under medium/low heat.  You don’t want the chocolate to scorch, so if the butter starts to bubble it’s too hot.  Add the sugar and mix until dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and add the vanilla and beaten egg.  Also, if the chocolate is too hot the egg will cook too fast and you’ll have little bits of egg whites throughout your mix.  If you like, you can temper the egg and vanilla with a little chocolate mix in a separate bowl and then add it to the saucepan.  Then add your oatmeal, coconut, and optional nuts.  I personally don’t add the nuts because I like the chewiness of the oatmeal and coconut.  Also, it makes it a lot easier if you’re doing this for a potluck or Christmas party.  You don’t have to worry about anyone with a nut allergy if you leave them out.

Now, you’ll have to let this rest for a little while for the mixture to cool down and for the oatmeal to absorb a bit of the moisture.  I like to make a batch and let it sit in the fridge overnight.  If you do this, take it out about an hour before you need to make the balls.  Otherwise it’s too hard to scoop.

Now, with a small scoop, make a ball about the size of a golf ball and roll it in the shredded coconut.  Place on lined cookie sheet and put back in the fridge or freezer.  When the snowballs are solid, you can put them in a container.  Separate layers with waxed paper to prevent them from sticking together.

Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

Print Recipe
Snowballs
These lovely bitesize coconut, oatmeal, and chocolate morsels will be a hit at any holiday get-together.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
dozen
Ingredients
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
dozen
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Melt butter and chocolate in a saucepan under medium low heat until chocolate is completely melted. Add sugar and stir until dissolved.
  2. Remove pan from heat and add beaten egg and vanilla. Mix in coconut, quick oats, and optional nuts. Chill until firm a couple of hours or overnight. If overnight, let the mixture sit on counter to warm slightly to room temperature for about an hour.
  3. With a small scoop, make a golf ball size ball and roll in shredded coconut. Chill until firm on lined cookie sheet. Place in container with waxed paper between the layers.
Recipe Notes

If you want to make this a bit more adult, use cream de cacao or coconut shnapps instead of vanilla.  The small amount of alcohol will heighten the flavours a little.

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