Some nuns did a kindness for me, and I wanted to thank them with a little gift. A shortbread cookie recipe I’d recently gotten from my dear Mother-in-Law seemed to perfectly meet the case. She cuts them in a star shape, and they are thin, light and melt-in-your-mouth good.
After searching the kitchen for an hour looking for an old cookie cutter, my husband reminded me that I’d done one of my periodic sweeps, where anything I determine to have been unused for too long gets tossed or donated elsewhere. “Don’t you remember,” he said, “you stood there saying, ‘I never make rolled cookies; I haven’t used these in 20 years, and I don’t need them.’ Then you just carelessly tossed them.”
He said it with a tiny bit of glee. This man is a packrat, who throws away nothing because someone, someday might have use for old string, a 50 year old child’s accordian or 5,000 wire hangers. Whenever I throw anything out, I get the lecture about how someday, I would miss that item. This time–darn him–he’d been proved right, so I let him crow a little
“I knew your mania for throwing things out would catch up with you,” he said, failing to hide an expression of smug know-it-all-ness, “it’s ten o’ clock at night, and you have no cookie cutters; now what are you going to do?”
Well, we Irish are resourceful pusses, and we understand better than most the versatility of a shotglass. I rolled out my dough and managed to cut out 120 round shotglass shortbread cookies for my nun friends.
“Those don’t look like my mother’s,” said Mr. Quality Control as he inspected them. “My mother’s look like stars. They have zigzagged edges.”
“Well, these are just circles,” I said defensively. “A circle is a symbol of eternity, and a very sound shape for a cookie.”
“Yeah, but they’re sort of ugly,” he said. “Monastic nuns give up a lot; they should not have to endure eating ugly cookies.”
I had to admit, they were rather bland-looking.
Trying to dress them up, I polished two ceramic brooches I’d picked up in Ireland, and tried using them to impress a design on the cookies:
Well, it was a good idea, and it might have worked with a firmer dough.
Finally, I decided simply to cut crosses into the cookies. I figured, these are for nuns! What could be better than a cross? They put crosses on hot cross buns, don’t they?
And nuns eat hot cross buns, right?
“Now they look like communion wafers,” my husband said.
“They don’t!” I insisted, “they look like very fine shortbread cookies . . . that happen to have crosses in the middle of them . . . just like communion wafers.”
“You’d better write a note to Sister Portress saying ‘caution: not for use at mass.’”
Such a comedian, he is.
After sampling a few of the finished cookies, he pronounced them as delicious as Mom’s, but not as enticing. “There is something about eating the points off the stars…”
I’ll never admit it, but I agree with him on that. Eating stars is funner.
Here’s the recipe, which is easily doubled.
Anchoress’ Mother-in-Law’s Shotglass Shortbread Cookies that Should be Stars
1 cup softened butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees. Cream together butter and sugar ’til fluffy. Slowly add flour until thoroughly blended. Turn onto smooth surface and roll out cookies to 1/4 inch or so (I am an inexperienced roller). Use a cookie cutter with a serated edge to make pretty cookies, or a shotglass, if it’s all you have, and cut out cookies. One batch yields about 60 cookies.
Bake at 300 degrees for approximately 25 minutes, or until edges are golden brown.
Yeah, that’s really all. They taste like a lot of work, but they’re really that simple.