This is a modest adaptation of my Ukranian grandmother’s late 1950s recipe for shortbread. The addition of the mace, currants and citron make them taste like they should be consumed in November or December. Truth be told the last time I made them it was April. I’m not much for holding onto convention.
Holiday Shortbread (makes 3 dozen)
- 2 lbs. flour (sifted before weighing)
- 2 teaspoons mace
- 1 lb. sweet butter
- 10 ounces granulated sugar
- ½ cup finely diced candied orange or lemon peel
- 1 ½ cups currants
- 12-oz bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate (optional)
Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
Let butter sit out briefly, but do not let it get too soft. Mix the flour, sugar and mace together in a large mixing bowl with a whisk. Cut the butter into the flour and sugar mixture with a hand pastry blender until it is well mixed and crumbly and particles begin to clump together. This is no easy task and takes a considerable amount of upper body strength combined with patience and a glass of chardonnay. It takes a good 15 minutes to get to the crumbly stage, longer if you’ve had more than one glass of wine. Once it is truly crumbly toss in the currants and the citron.
Pat the mixture into a half-size sheet pan (a sheet pan is a cookie sheet with low sides and a half-size sheet pan refers to one that is 18×13) until the mixture is packed, but not too firmly. My grandmother’s notes say to, “Prick with a fork for a nice pattern.” I tried my best to do this – and completely failed. My cookies still looked great but they were completely devoid of nicely patterned prick marks. No one seemed to notice.
Bake at 275 degrees for 60-70 minutes. Mine did not brown in that length of time – they were cooked through and nicely crisp once they cooled. Cut them into squares or rectangles while still warm. Cool on waxed paper. Store in a container with tight fitting lid.
If you decide you want chocolate dipped shortbread (it should be noted that I’d dip my children in chocolate if it was legal) line a baking sheet with clean parchment or wax paper. In a double boiler melt 12-oz of best quality bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate (whatever you prefer). Stir constantly until melted and smooth. Remove from heat. Dip each cookie halfway into chocolate, let excess drip off, and place the dipped cookies on the baking sheet. Let them stand until the chocolate is set, or you can stand it no longer, about 2 hours. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. These cookies are totally gorgeous and would make great holiday gifts if I were willing to part with any.