Sunday, December 11, 2011


There's something about Christmas and shortbread, isn't there?  They seem to go together.  I seldom make shortbread outside of the holidays.  At least, not straight up, unadulterated shortbread.  I'll add chocolate chips or dried berries or citrus zest to it.  But plain, buttery shortbread seems to be reserved for Christmas.

I had a package of unsalted, cultured butter in the fridge which I had bought for something else that never did get made.  I thought it would make a lovely cookie, and so I pulled it out to soften.  I found a recipe that used plain flour and some icing sugar, plus a whisper of vanilla.  It sounded lovely.  The softened butter danced in the mixer with the sugar until it was a fluffy mass on the sides of the bowl.  I added a restrained splash of vanilla and smiled.  By the time my 4 year old and I had patted out the soft dough, scored it and docked it with little fork marks, I was eagerly anticipating the cookies that would come.  Going against my own nature, I waited for them to cool before sneaking a taste from a crumbly corner.  The flaky fleck almost melted on my tongue.  Such a wonderful texture.  And then... nothing.  No flavour.  Just blandness. 

I forgot the salt!  The scant 1/4 tsp of savoury balance that holds together the very fabric of the food world was still in my little blue salt pig.  The subtle nuance of flavour from the expensive block of cultured butter was lost forever, and the whisper of vanilla was mute.  I tried in vain to salvage the batch, smearing some of the biscuits with melted chocolate and a sprinkle of salt, but it was too late.  There was no saving them.  Though, to be honest, my husband will probably still eat them all.  He just loves shortbread and can't bear for it to go to waste.

Tonight I'm making a batch of savoury shortbread with Oka cheese, walnuts and dried cranberries.  And salt.

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