It’s December! I love the Christmas season so much that I do tend to dedicate the entire December to it - that means Christmas really is here (for me)! No one would say anything about starting Christmas celebrations early from Thanksgiving onwards (had a little one with my family with very basic dishes - more on that soon)! Actually, I think I started celebrating Christmas the moment Starbucks released their Christmas drinks on the menu.
Anyone who knows me well, I’m incredibly #basic, sometimes even trashy), when it comes to 3 things:
1. Starbucks’ festive menus. I mean COME ON Peppermint Mocha and Toffee Nut Lattes anyone?? I love my Pumpkin Spice Lattes too (in our basic world, we term it PSL)
2. Trashy top 40 hit songs when I’m working out
3. Marks and Spencer’s festive products
I’m not sure about why I’m so enamoured by M&S products only when it’s festive - there’s just something about their packaging that draws me in and makes me spend way more than I should. I remember spending an entire 2 hours in a M&S supermarket in London while my friends shopped around Neal’s Yard, only to find me returning home with bags of food that I definitely could not finish.
My single favourite thing I loved buying from M&S is their shortbread fingers. I grew up on that shit and I was addicted to it like cocaine. It is also probably the #1 reason why I was a fat kid until I was in junior collage. I’ve stopped buying them often because my palate matured and I’m a lot more open to eating real food other than packaged ones, but it still is an occasional indulgence.
Recently, I picked it up at the store and for the first time ever (I know right), I turned around to see what goes in to these addictive treats. Lots of the basic stuff indeed, but also a ton of ingredients that I couldn’t pronounce (AKA chemicals). It never occurred to me why I never bothered to read their nutritional labels but for the past few months, I’ve been trying to eat less packaged food. I’ve come to realise the important of real food and it’s been going great for me. It’s a simple rule - I don’t eat things that I can’t pronounce or can’t find in kitchen.
No I’m not turning GF, DF, Nut free, vegan, alkaline etc. I believe in a balanced diet with real food, that’s all. I am eating all my chicken rice and hokkien noodles and burgers and salads, but I’ve substantially cut away the instant noodles, the packaged snacks, the ready-made foods that you only need to pop into the microwave for a minute and it’s done. It’s a lot easier and yummier and cheaper than I expected and I’ve been spending a lot more time in the kitchen which is always my dream. The last snack that I’ve really cut out is actually now staring at me - my M&S shortbread fingers.
So if I shouldn’t buy it, then I shall make it. So make them I did. This is a home-baked version of buttery shortbread fingers (please ignore the silly cookie cutter shapes. It is a guilty pleasure of mine). I made them lighter in small bites, so that I don’t feel too full to eat more of it. Typical, I know.
And don’t be embarrassed to make things more christmassy than it already is!!!! YAYE CHRISTMAS
Butter Shortbread Cookies
360g unsalted butter - softened
120g confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
330g all-purpose flour - sifted
1 to 2 teaspoons of cold water
1 pinch of salt
1/4 cup sugar - to sprinkle over cookies prior to baking
1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line the baking sheets with parchment/baking paper.
2. In a large bowl, beat the softened butter till smooth and pale. Add the sugar and combine until creamy. Scrape down the sides occasionally during this process.
3. Slowly add in the sifted flour, bit by bit, until all the flour is mixed well and the dough comes together. Add in 1 to 2 teaspoons of cold water if the dough does not come together
4. Roll the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead it slightly. Roll into a ball and refrigerate for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
5. Turn the chilled dough out onto a floured surface and divide into 2 portions (so that you can work with a smaller batch at one time). Allow the dough to warm up slightly and knead it into a ball. Using a rolling pin, roll out each portion of dough into approx 6mm in thickness. Cut into shapes using your desired cookie cutter. Sprinkle some sugar on top to give them the extra crunch after baking.
To be fair, I had a hard time deciding if this lil' guy here was a bear or a monster. I think I'd prefer to see him as a happy silly monster.
6. Place the cut cookies about 2 cm apart on the baking sheets. Bake for about 12-14 minutes, and/or until the edges of the cookies are starting to brown.
7. Remove from oven and allow to cool on the baking sheets for another 5-10 minutes. Then gently transfer them onto a rack to allow them to cool completely.
I enjoy my cookies plain, without icing, because I feel that fondant and icing takes away the buttery-ness of shortbread. It’s best with coffee although my friends have felt that they do go better with tea because it is all very English. Nonetheless, this is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon making adorable yummy cookies for friends and family, especially so during this Christmas period. I AM SO EXCITED FOR CHRISTMAS. Anyhoos, these cookies keep for about a week in airtight containers at room temperature so you can definitely prep these babies beforehand as a party treat at your upcoming Christmas meal!
Happy Christmas you guys! Here's to wonderful kitchen adventures and making good food for the people we love.