Christmas is dead and gone, and now we are in the bowels of the deep-freeze called Winter in the Maritimes. As I am writing, it is -17C (-25C with the wind chill), fire is going- as are all of the space heaters that are needed in an old farm house. No gardens to take care of, minimal animal care, no people in the restaurant…. This is our time, and I will take it at any temperature Mother Nature decides to give us.
We still have work to do for market, but it’s manageable- fun even! 2013 rang in a new attitude for me, I have become a little more thoughtful and self-aware in my actions (my reactions, however, may be 2014). I was getting increasingly down about what we were producing to take to market, it’s the same dang thing every week. I am a pretty creative person, at least I’d like to think I am, so this was pretty stifling and spirit killing. No more. We took a week off of market and decided it would be a perfect time to switch our production list. So, every week I am doing different stuff. It’ll take a little while, but people will start looking for it- hopefully excited to see what we’ve come up with this week….I know I am!
A long time ago (17 years, I think), my Nan died. She was a lovely lady, a great cook and my lifelong inspiration on how food can make people happy- whether I went over and made stuff with her, or she dropped by with stew and doughboys, or she shared recipes with her friends…. Anyway, when she passed away, I was given her personal, handwritten cookbooks. I have had them since, pulling them out on occassion just to read them. Over Christmas, my dad and his sister were cleaning their houses, and both found more recipes that were my Nan’s. One was a stack of cards in a little Tupperware container- they were a mix of handwritten and commercially printed from a Flour company, the other was a Christmas envelope with my Dad’s favorite cookie recipe (this will be a separate post)- these were my favorite Christmas presents, and such an inspiration!
I have decided to start making her recipes, documenting them and bringing them back to life- it drives me crazy that they just sit there on my shelf (although they are in good company, neighboring with Thomas Keller and Escoffier). They are also going to go into the Market rotation, so they can do what they are supposed to- improve someone’s day, even just a little.
Over Christmas, I made my Nan’s shortbread recipe, and it was outstanding! Tender, buttery, a little sweet, light- have I said tender? Traditionally Nan put a quarter of a glace cherry on top (my Dad, when he was a kid, used to eat all of the cherries off of the cookies while Nan wasn’t around….). Just because of the time of year, I tweaked the recipe to make it a little more sunny in January. The base in the same, with the addition of lemon and poppyseeds. These would be awesome even without the final touches, I was feeling inspired so I added a few garnishes- nothing complicated, just a lemon glaze and a dusting of poppyseeds.
Lemon Poppyseed Shortbreads-approximately 32 cookies, not counting the ones I ate 🙂
I would strongly recommend using a stand mixer when doing these, they take a lot of whipping and I am not PopEye.
The use of cornstarch is actually a handy trick while doing icebox cookies- using a small amount in the cookies makes them a little more tender then using all flour. Balancing out the amount to use if a little tricky because you don’t want to go too far, as cornstach flavoured cookies are icky.
225 g butter, room temperature
68 g icing sugar, sifted
4 g salt
2 T lemon zest (approximately 2 lemons), microplaned or chopped fine
68 g cornstarch
2 T lemon zest (approximately 2 lemons)
208 g all-purpose flour
12 g poppyseeds
Using a paddle on the stand mixer, whip the butter to break it up, add icing sugar, salt and lemon zest and beat in high until light and fluffy – the length of time really depends on the temperature of the kitchen, I had a cold kitchen and it took longer then usual. Add flour, cornstarch and poppy seeds, and mix on medium low until it is uniform, turn it out on a work surface and knead it just to pull it together. Roll into 2 logs onto 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight- you want the dough to be firm and not shapeshift when it is cut.
Remove plastic wrap and slice 3/8″ thick. You can cut them thicker, just make everything the same thickeness to ensure even baking for all of your cookies. Bake on parchment lined baking sheets for 6 minutes and then turn, and bake another 6. As always, your oven may be different, so look for cookies are are not translucent, and have lost the sheen on top. I always flip one over to look for dough-y spots. Pop them back in and check again for a minute or 2. Cool before glazing. Or eat them all right now- I won’t judge you.
2 T lemon juice, strained
100 g icing sugar, sifted
Mix both ingredients in a small bowl until smooth. It should be runny, but not watery. If you need to add a little more juice or icing sugar to adjust consistency.
Drop cookies with the pan side of the cookie facing up when it is in the icing. Fish them out with your thumb and index finger, and gently run the cookie over the side of the bowl to remove excess glaze. (Another option is to pipe it on with a piping bag- your choice…)Place naked side down on baking sheet and sprinkle a few poppyseeds over the top. Dry overnight- it needs to dry to not mess up the pretty glaze on top…. Store airtight for up to 2 weeks.
Piece of Advice not related to this recipe: Take the time to improve your mental well-being. We have started to clean out our house- really clean it out, not just tidy it up and it is like a weight lifted off my shoulders. Physical chaos can cause mental chaos. It benefits you, and the Slavation Army gets a few loads of clothes, books, dishes and random kitchen gadgets that had no business taking up real estate in our cupboards to begin with. That’s my 2 cents.- FRK