Dr Sister Outlaw just loves butter/flour combos

Am currently feeling rather more prepared for Christmas than is usual. (Zoe made me feel very chuffed by asking me advice on pudding preparation by SMS). As a result, I am on top of the shopping and have accepted invites to (a) mother-of-boyfriend’s drinks (b) aunty-of-boyfriend’s Xmas dinner. Was a bit flummoxed when I realised that I really ought to take something to both events, but have no cash whatsoever (as going to Thailand and Vietnam shortly). So, in a fit of idiocy, I decided to make shortbread, using pretty angel, star and love heart cookie cutters that I bought today.

I haven’t done this since I was 24 or 25, which was quite some time ago. And, after I started, I remembered why. All that butter and all that flour, rice flour and sugar surely makes an unholy mess once you get going. Particularly if you have not yet made pastry in the new house and have no bench space. Particularly if you are so stupid as to double the recipe, as I did today (I’m not giving you the recipe, it’s the one off the McCormack rice flour packet, so you can’t go wrong).

I generally, genuinely, love making pastry and home-made pasta, because of that magic moment that occurs when the dry ingredients and the fat or the eggs just, you know, happen, and you get the elastic dough that you are aiming for. I learned a while ago that the old rubbing in method is pretty damned frustrating and that a blender works very well indeed (you do want lumps of butter in pastry, but that’s another story). However, even with a blender, f***ing shortbread just never seems like it is going to come together. This was not at all helped by my sudden discovery that I DON’T HAVE A ROLLING PIN. Jesus, how did I move out from the ex without the freakin’ rolling pin? How have I lived, in two houses, without one?

Despite these setbacks, it did finally come together, with a fair bit of manual handling. There is an old adage about how pastry cooks are supposed to keep things cold and use only the tips of their cool little fingers to rub butter and flour together, but, really, if you don’t use your toasty warm palms you will never, ever, get the butter and flour bits of the shortbread to hang together, let alone be able to flatten them into a nice even pattie and cut them with cookie cutters.

So, I used my palms and rolled out batches with the wine bottle I finished off last night with the boyfriend. God, it went on for hours, the rolling, cutting out and baking. But goodness me, it was worth it. Baked for about 30 minutes in my brand new fan-forced electric oven … yum.

AND I get to be all smug and say ‘yes, of course I made them myself.’ God, home cooking is brilliantly satisfying.

13 thoughts on “Dr Sister Outlaw just loves butter/flour combos

  1. Oh, bewdiful.

    I have a cat-shaped cookie cutter that I have never used. I expect all the tails to break off, just like the shortbread kangaroos’ tails always do.

    Was reminiscing only this morning to my friend D and her daughter (born 1987) about the Christmas of 1978 when D and I were impoverished house-sharing students and made a great pile of shortbread for presents, which we wrapped in red and green cellophane and put under the tree. The live tree. Which was in a too-small and insufficiently balanced and ballasted bucket of water.

    Cellophane colour runs in water, did you know that? And shortbread turns to gruel. And I hardly dare mention the state of the landlady’s carpet.

  2. That’s one of the best Christmas disaster stories I have ever heard!!

    I am sure the angels heads will break off as well, but I am an atheist so am not that bothered really. Off to wrap them, and keep them clear of all water!

  3. I can see the moment, Pav, where you both stood back and admired your efforts. And I can see the other moment too.

    Little home-made treats are a wonderful thing at any time, but at Christmas in particular. Sage’s kindy teacher gave each family some shortbread she’d made (utterly delicious). I’m making some today, and pickling plums before we head off tomorrow.

    Loved the SMS hand-holding – as far as I can tell things seem good with puds. Far out the big one is big, though.

    Owen’s family has always had a granny’s recipe pudding, with coins, now made by his sister. I had no idea how much he’d missed it until I started making these ones. Feeling full of the Christmas spirit, I am.

  4. Yes, teh awesomeness of the Christmas pudding does tend to make men go all funny, in delightful ways. Christmas is def women’s business, and may it ever be so (except the blokes should wash up after).

  5. Heh. What is it when you find the diametrically opposite action to long held kitchen lore works just as well, if not better, for your purposes? The short breads all look very delicious anyway.

    Pav, did you cry? I would’ve I cried.

  6. Best ever shortbread recipe is in Alan Campion and Michelle Curtis’ book “Campion and Curtis in the kitchen”. Comes together beautifully, can roll it out for the cutters, I love it. I even (sacrilege) 3/4s melt the butter in the microwave because I can’t bear the stupid rubbing in bit.

  7. Would love to share.

    260g plain flour,115g rice flour,250g unsalted butter,125g caster sugar

    3/4s melt the butter in the microwave, throw in everything else. Mix it up until dough is formed.
    Add water if too dry, a bit of flour if too wet. Turn it out, knead a little and roll it out. Cuts beautifully and makes lots! Merry Christmas.

  8. Sorry – forgot to add cook at 170 degrees in preheated for exactly 10 minutes (in my oven) bottoms/edges just start to colour – other ovens could add a couple of minutes.
    And don’t roll too thin.

  9. oh… I love the ‘rubbing the butter in’ bit. it’s like meditating. well, ‘cept I can’t meditate for toffee, but if I could, I think it would be like rubbing butter 😉

  10. Pingback: Words to the wise from Dr Sister Outlaw | Progressive Dinner Party

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