It’s Christmas time, so I made some shortbread cookies — Photos

My aunt has been making shortbread cookies for a long time, and used to even send batches of her shortbread cookies through the mail across the country to my grandmother. At one point, I asked my aunt to teach me how make her shortbread cookies so that I could make them somewhat more often and then bring them directly and personally to my grandmother. Alas, my grandmother passed away a few years ago, but I have continued making the shortbread cookies because they are tasty, and my mom has said “why should I bother making my shortbread cookies when you make them (an albeit different recipe) so well?” 🙂

I recently made them for the third time in the past month or so, this time to make as a Christmas gift for my brother who also really likes them; I reminded him that our aunt is the mistress, and I merely the student. 🙂

I started off by bringing a pound of butter to room temperature:

A pound of butter brought to room temperature

Then I creamed the butter with an electric beater (dating from the early 1960’s — it’s older than I am!)

Creaming the butter with an electric beater

A cup (packed) of brown sugar was added …

A cup (packed) of brown sugar added.

… and then blended with the creamed butter.

1 (packed) cup of brown sugar blended into the creamed butter

Four cups of regular flour were added, one cup at a time.

The first of four cups of flour added to the butter and brown sugar mix

Here is the dough after all four cups of flour have been mixed in:

Dough after all the flour has been added and mixed together

Next, flour was spread on the cutting board to avoid sticking:

Flour on the cutting board

The dough was placed on the cutting board, floured a bit on top to avoid sticking, and flattened with my hands:

Dough on the cutting board, floured and flattened out by hand

The dough was then further flattened out with a rolling pin.

Using a rolling pin to further flatten out the dough

The dough was then cut into strips about an inch wide, and ends were cut off.

Dough cut into roughly 1″ wide strips

I started to cut the strips into roughly two inch lengths.

2″ lengths of dough were cut

Cuttings from the edges and cookie pieces that broke were put back in the mixing bowl to be formed together again to cut more cookies.

Dough cuttings put back in the mixing bowl

The rectangular cookies were placed on cookie sheets.

Cookie dough rectangles placed on baking sheets

The cookies were then pricked with a fork. According to instruction #4 of the shortbread cookies recipe on the King Arthur Flour website (here’s my archive), it’s to allow steam to escape and avoid bubbling up of the cookies; to me it’s also been a matter of the traditions of the aesthetics of shortbread cookies; oh well, I do it because that’s how I was taught. 🙂

Pricking the cookies with a fork
Some of the cookies have been pricked.

And here are all of my cookies, at the end of the pricking.

All of the cookies, pricked, ready to bake
Yet another closeup of the cookies, ready to bake

The cookies were placed in an oven preheated to 300F and baked for 22 minutes. This could vary somewhat based on your oven and the electrical load in your neighbourhood at the time you bake, but take them out when the bottoms just start to brown.

Shortbread cookies baking at 300F for 22 minutes

And here are the cookies, cooling on baking racks:

Baked cookies on cooling racks

Yes, there is a broken cookie in the upper right hand corner, it broke when I took it off the baking tray. Anyway, I had to do a quality control test, you must understand … it was yummy!

The cookies are now bagged up carefully and the bags placed in a box, which was placed in the freezer until Christmas Day when they will be given to my brother as one of his gifts.

Halloween 2020, my candy delivery tube, and inflatable decorations

Halloween Candy Delivery System

2020 for Halloween was slightly different, and a lot of the same, for me.

Given “the new normal” brought about contactless and distanced interactions, I had to rethink what I usually do for Halloween.

Normally, I set up a marquee on my front lawn, perhaps dress up a bit in (usually) a very simplistic Elvis costume, and give away candies to the ghosties and ghoulies in the usual way, while (badly) belting out a few Elvis tunes, and throwing in a few bellows of “Happy Halloween!”

Me during Halloween 2008, dressed in a simple Elvis suit

Over the years, I added a coffee urn to serve coffee to parents, cookies, juice boxes, and bags of chips, all on a side table, in addition to the candies I would hand out.

This year, there was some uncertainty as to whether Halloween would be allowed at all, but ultimately, where I live, the provincial authorities decided that Halloween was an important holiday for the children to participate in. Halloween activities for adults remained cancelled. This was great for me, since I prefer the street festival vibe of serving the ghosties and ghoulies over costume parties for adults.

However, this also meant that for me, there could be no serving of coffee, cookies, extra snacks, or juice boxes. Of course, contactless and distanced interactions were to be observed, such as placing a table at the end of your driveway, with the candies in individual bags for people to serve themselves. I found this last suggestion to be decidedly unsatisfactory.

I thought about a tube delivery system, the topic of which was being discussed on the radio, while televised newscasts showed people demonstrating compressed air powered delivery systems. I chose something far more simple: A two inch tube, about ten feet long, and set up on an angle off of a step ladder.

This year’s candy delivery system, in the daylight

Operation was very low tech: I would be behind the ladder at the high end, while the ghosties and ghoulies would crouch down and place their bag or bucket at the bottom end of the tube, also on the other side of a cordoned off area. I would push three individually wrapped candies per child down the tube, one candy at a time, with a bit of flourish, calling out “One! Two! THREE!!!!!

And, if the candy didn’t make it down all the way, I would tip the ladder a bit to make sure that the candies would come out the other end.

This year’s candy delivery system, lit up in the dark, with one of this year’s Halloween inflatables

The delivery system seemed popular, and adults thought it was cool enough. A lot, although not all, of the ghosties and ghoulies understood right away what to do, while others needed prompting from either the adults with them, or from me.

Inflatable Lawn Ornaments

I have also been taking a liking to the inflatable lawn ornaments that over the past few years have come out especially around Halloween, as well as around Christmas. While arguably a bit of a luxury item, I am cheap, so whenever I buy a new addition, I only buy the least expensive smallest units, sometimes on sale a day or two AFTER Halloween; I also don’t buy the (somewhat wildly) more expensive units which are licensed designs of movie or TV characters. (I am also somewhat concerned that at some point sufficiently far into the future when I still want to use them, that the premium paid will be lost on an icon whose heyday and easy recognition are long past.)

2020’s Halloween inflatables, with a couple of friends purchased years ago from a dollar store
2020’s Halloween inflatables, lit up in the dark

I purchased the ghost (on the right) a few years ago, and this year I added the green vampire monster, and the pumpkin head skeleton.

Final Count

Given that I wasn’t sure how many children would come, or even whether there would be any at all, I had a decent turnout. My better years have brought out almost 90 children. How many ghosties and ghoulies did I give out candies to this year? At three candies per child most of the time, and 200 candies purchased, with only nine pieces left over at the end, I estimate that I served about 60 children.

Now that Halloween 2020 has come and gone … it’s time for Christmas!

Christmas themed inflatables (squirrel, snowman, and fox)

Now that Christmas is on its way, today I felt that it was time to set up my Christmas-themed inflatables. In fact, while it’s only now the beginning of the fourth week of November and Christmas is still a month away, I’m actually a bit tardy — off the top of my head, I can think of at least five other houses on my block who have already set up Christmas lights and inflatables!