First Christmas cookie recipe of the season: Grandma's simple shortbread

Photo: Patty Yablonski, Tampa Bay Times

Photo: Patty Yablonski, Tampa Bay Times

Hi, friends! It's been a while. It's that time of year. I am making it up to you by sharing a cookie recipe. My husband and I have already begun making Christmas cookies, and I have already begun my annual ritual of eating at least two per day. 

This is one of those recipes I make every year, because it holds a special place in my Christmas-loving heart. They are the cookies my Grandma Stark was famous for.

My grandma is the kind of lady who saved sour cream containers and used them to store dinner leftovers. So it makes sense that her most popular holiday recipe was for minimalist shortbread dough that she stretched to create dozens of festive cookies. To this day, no one can figure out how she got thirty-something cookies out of this recipe.

My family and I have continued her tradition, making these cookies every year without fail. When I was a kid, the part where we got to cut out shapes and decorate with green and red icing was a blast; now, I make them because they remind me of Grandma, and of our family traditions.

I actually like them, too, which I don't think is always the case with classic family recipes. My main tip is to roll the cookies out a little thicker, and make sure the icing-to-cookie ratio is right: a thin layer that evenly coats the whole cookie. Just like Grandma did. 

Grandma's Scotch Shortbread

1 cup butter or shortening
¾ cup confectioners’ sugar
2 cups flour
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
Food coloring, red and green

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cream butter or shortening; add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add flour and mix to a soft dough. Pat or roll out on lightly floured board to ¼ inch thickness. Cut with cookie cutters. Sprinkle a pinch of sugar on top of each cookie.

Bake on an ungreased baking sheet in a 325-degree oven for about 20 minutes, until brown. Allow cookies to cool fully, then top with green and red icing.

To make icing, mix sugar with 1 tablespoon milk, then stir. Icing should be thin but not runny. Add more sugar if it’s runny, more milk if it’s too thick. Add desired food coloring drops and stir well. Makes 2 to 3 dozen.

Source: Peggy Stark