Shortbread has long been a favorite of ours. Growing up, shortbread was part of our Christmas. And one of the very few times there was butter in our home. Like everyone else of the day, margarine was the affordable staple to spread on bread, for frying eggs, fish and most other fried foods.
But at Christmas, our Mother purchased butter to make wonderful shortbread, and she would make them by the dozen, challenging our longing looks with "These are not to be eaten before Christmas."
We of course would await any opportunity to discover a large round cookie tin, lifting it to feel the weight, and popping the top to discover the buttery delicacies. Perfectly baked and each topped with a half marischino cherry. Two in the mouth, two in the pocket and one in each hand, the tin was quietly replaced and we would disappear as quickly as we could.
Our Mother knew. She would ask. And she would scold. And she would make more.
We've tasted many shortbread recipes over the years. Few make the mark. Most are too dry and crumbly. Some taste oily instead of buttery. Others have no taste at all. The more recent "whipped shortbread" gets full marks just because of the way it melts in your mouth, flooding your senses with BUTTER.
When we lived in Montreal for ten years we shopped daily on our way home at the Atwater Market. And on Saturdays we would also go to the market where at Christmas time a number of the ladies working the various outlets offered their baking for sale to clients. We enjoyed a few good shortbreads there.
More recently, while enjoying lunch at Chez Edgar in Gatineau, we sampled a shortbread flavored with citrus that was very tasty. And we started to think about that.
This recipe below is what we've come up with. We believe it to be very good. And we bet you can't eat just one of them.
3 cups sifted flour
1 cup almond flour
1 lb. butter (softened)
1 cup brown sugar
zest from one large orange
Mix all ingredients. Roll out dough to desired thickness (we use just more than an eigth of an inch) and cut in two inch rounds, placing on a baking sheet.
Bake at 325º to desired doneness.
Several on a plate with a cup of tea is about as good as it gets.