Desperately Seeking Shortbread

There are some who find Christmas baking a joyful and relaxing experience.

I am not one of them.

An invitation to a cookie-baking party – The Girlfriend and her two lovely grown offspring, The Theatrical One and The Boat Guy – had me researching shortbread recipes in advance. I raised the question on Facebook. I asked my friends and co-workers. At parties, I demanded recipes of intoxicated hostesses.

Almost everyone I talked to suggested the recipe on the side of the Canada Cornstarch box.

I cannot put cornstarch in shortbread. I will not.

Instead, I turned to the blogosphere. Found a recipe from a pastry chef I trust. Brought it to the baking party.

These folks – The Girlfriend & Co. – are pros. They’ve been making Christmas cookies as a family since before the turn of the century. Hundreds of bright, shiny, sweet, crunchy, addictive items of Christmas crack were effortlessly produced that night. Hoping to impress, I assembled my ingredients and even brought a box of Jewish cookie cutters to appease The Girlfriend’s spiritual needs.

Reader, I was the weakest link in the chain.

The recipe, I think, was in weight, not volume. (Sometimes the Pastry Chef’s recipes are more for her fellow-professionals than for the common baking joe like me). Notice the over-abundance of butter…

There are no images of the results. I was too devastated. Ashamed, really.

The Girlfriend, The Theatrical One and The Boat Guy were very kind. We’ve. Made. Every. Mistake. In. The Book,said The Boat Guy, in his charminly agreeable way. It. Just. Takes. Practice.

Perhaps it was a metaphor. A learning experience. A revelation. Maybe I was trying to hard to fit in, with the fancy-schmancy recipe and the politically correct cookie cutters.

So, there’s no recipe at the end of this post. I await suggestions. Comforting words. And a foolproof shortbread recipe so that I may redeem myself sometime before the year is out.


  1. Here – this is an easy one, used by my family since before cookies existed. No cornstarch, either.

    Mom’s Shortbread

    4 cups flour
    2 cups butter
    1 cup icing sugar

    Mix ingredients in a food processor, then turn onto floured surface and knead until smooth. Roll to 1/2 inch thick. Cut and decorate as desired. Bake at 350’ for 15 minutes.

  2. I figure we all have a certain quota of kitchen disappointments per year that we must meet before the year is out. So you’ve crossed off another one, and hopefully the last one for 2008. I had a baking disaster recently too. I promised my gluten/dairy/sugar avoiding coworker a birthday cake. I sourced recipes for weeks, and finally ended up making something so unservable that I only gave him a square inch of it with a candle on it, as evidence, at the very least, of my effort. Things can only go up for us, I’m sure.

  3. this is a fluffier shortbread, and you can add any flavor variant you want. i don’t like it as much as sfl’s shortbread…which i am assuming is the recipe you used. but it’s pretty yummy just the same.

    AP flour 2 cups
    salt 1 1/2 t
    butter 1/2 #
    confectioners sugar 1/2 c

    you combine all ingredients in a mixer, cuisinart, whatever, and mix until they come tog. i guess if you have no mixer you cna combine all the dries and then cut the butter into it like pie dough.

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