This is my first Christmas season clear across the country. I hadn’t thought things would be much different, but I realized this morning that we’re only weeks away from Christmas and it doesn’t feel like it at all. I’m sure part of it is the relative dearth of Christmas lights. Sure people have lights up, they even shut our damn cable and internet off for two hours because they were stringing lights on the tower. Really? Perhaps it’s the weather, grey isn’t quite as Christmas as snow or cold weather. While it’s a bit chilly, it’s not that crisp what-the-hell cold I’m used to. I’ve decided I needed to do something about that; some Christmas cookies are in order then.
My mother used to make about 372 different types of Christmas cookies each year. The height of my existence as a child when I was growing up was waking up Christmas morning and aside from all the great gifts, knowing that I could subsist on nothing but Christmas Cookies for the whole day and no one would say anything about it. There were so many cookies I’m not sure anyone would have even noticed. Gingerbread men, pfeffernusse, those thumb-print jelly cookies, peanut butter-Hersheys Kiss cookies, butter cookies, chocolate truffle cookies, sugar cookies….an endless list of different types of sugar goodness.
Over the course of the next few days I’m sure there will be a few cookie recipes forthcoming, although I decided to start with a versatile shortbread cookie that’s small batch, 4 ingredient, easy as could be, and quick to bake. They take minutes to put together, about a half hour to bake, and are ready to eat as soon as they come out of the oven.
In a bowl mix one cup of AP flour, 1/3 cup white sugar, and 2 teaspoons of ground ginger. I used my giant KitchenAide stand mixer, the only other thing to add is 1/2 a cup (1 stick) of butter cut into slices. I cut all the butter at once and just dump it all in. Take the butter right from the fridge rather than having it softened. I mix on a decent speed – maybe about 5 out of 10. This can also be done in a food processor. You can do this with just a few pulses. It’s just like making pie crust.
When it was done mixing I looked in the bowl and said “that’s going to make something” It looked like sand. Wet-ish sand. But sand nonetheless. Even making pie crust I’ve never really had anything that looked quite like this. No matter, pressing on. I took a pie pan, you can use an 8 or 9 inch circular pan or an 8 inch square pan fairly interchangeably, and dumped my wet sand in. After you’ve loaded up your favorite pie pan just level everything off and pat it down firmly into a nice even layer. Most recipes for shortbread call for you to prick the dough at this point with a fork. That wasn’t happening for me. It was pretty crumbly and just made a mess so I dispensed with the whole procedure.
This cooks in a fairly slow oven, preheated to about 325 degrees F is about right. It takes 30 to 35 minutes to bake. I checked it at 30 minutes and things weren’t quite there yet. When done it should be getting golden brown around the edges and lightly brown around the middle bits.
As soon as it comes out take the sharpest knife that you have and cut the “pie” into eighths. You’ll have 8 slices of light and buttery ginger goodness. These go really well with coffee, tea, or just as a nice dessert. There’s much less sugar in them then you might think, but clearly there’s a bit of fat. They take well to just about any flavoring, you could add lemon zest, orange zest, you could do cardamom instead of ginger. They are delicate and buttery enough to support just about anything you might want to tinker with. I like them the way they are; just spicy enough to be different and not overly sweet.
For a neat little 8 or 9 inch pan of cookies – which will make 8 buttery wedges, you’ll need the following:
- 1 Cup of AP Flour
- 1/2 Cup Butter (1 Stick) – Chilled
- 1/3 Cup White Sugar
- 2 Tablespoons Ground Ginger