Yesterday’s post was about my dad and his favourite cookie, The Raisin Cookie, and the happy memories the spices brought back. My mother would bake at least a dozen different kinds of cookies for the holidays, and there always had to be two kinds of shortbread. Traditional shortbread recipes have brown sugar in them. The cookies are buttery, sugary, and (sometimes described as) dry. Mom made traditional shortbread for Christmas, but she also made whipped shortbread.
Whipped shortbread recipes tend to use icing sugar (or confectioners sugar) instead of the brown sugar. The butter is still there, but this recipe does what its name requires of it–whipping the sugar and butter together until fluffy. Traditional shortbreads are rolled and cut; whipped shortbreads must be either spooned carefully onto a baking sheet or created using a cookie press. I invested in a cookie press with an assortment of tips and attachments years ago, and I enjoy making whipped shortbread cookies with this. Mom always used a cookie press to make her whipped shortbread look fancy, and carefully placed pieces of green and red maraschino cherries onto them before they went into the oven to bake. My job growing up was to put the cherries on top – and occasionally I managed to sneak a piece or two as a treat all on its own. That didn’t happen often, because baking was an expensive thing to do – especially with at least twelve types of cookies on the go – so mom made sure ingredients didn’t disappear!
This recipe was always quick to make, but it took longer because of the conversation mom always wanted to have while I placed the cherry pieces onto the cookies. She’d ask what I was doing in school, what was happening with my friends, and whether I was still getting along with my twin sister (an answer that changed frequently during my growing up years!). Cookie baking was both about the process and conversation, as well as the pleasure the finished product gave to so many people during family gatherings.
Whipped Shortbread Cookies
1 cup butter, softened (I do recommend butter rather than margarine for its distinct flavour)
1 1/2 cups flour (all-purpose works very well, if you have cake flour handy this makes the cookie more fluffy!)
1/2 cup icing or confectioners sugar
diced maraschino cherries for garnish
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Combine butter, flour, and sugar in a bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat until very light and fluffy (the more air incorporated, the better…usually a good 5-10 minutes of effort is needed). Use a cookie press to place individual cookies on cookie sheets. Cookies will spread to approximately double their size while baking, so leave enough room between cookies to ensure cookies do not touch and stick together during the baking process. Place one piece of maraschino cherry onto the centre of each cookie. If you get really creative, a larger red maraschino in the centre with two small narrow green pieces can look like a Christmas poinsettia. Bake for approximately 17 minutes, or until bottoms are lightly browned. Remove, let cool 5 minutes on the cookie sheet, then transfer to cooling racks. Don’t leave cookies to cool on the pan, they will stick. Placing parchment paper on the pan before baking can help reduce sticking.