Mom's Style Shortbread

Mom’s Style Shortbread

 

Mom in 2003

Mom in 2003

My mom and I had this funny kind of Xmas tradition. She had this decadent, simple, delicious recipe for shortbread, comprised mostly of butter, cornstarch, icing sugar and flour. She would roll out this decadent and rich dough and cut it into triangular, diamond and rectangular shapes. Mom did not like fiddly work in the kitchen, so using cookie cutters and  rolling the dough countless times was just not in her wheelhouse. But those cookies-oh my goodness! They tasted just like flaky butter, if butter could be flaky.

 

Here is the tradition. Every Xmas, I would call her up and ask her for her recipe. She would reply, “Just a minute dear, let me get it”. And so it would go every year. The odd time that I could not get in touch with her when I was raring to go on the shortbread cookie baking, I would use another recipe for shortbread, called Melting Moments.  But, it was never quite the same.

Mom's Recipe Book

Mom’s Recipe Book

Mom's Filing System

Mom’s Filing System

So, when it was time to bake the shortbread this year, I thought of my mom and our tradition and decided that maybe I would try to find her unparalleled cookie recipe. I have this cookbook that I put together for Mom so many years ago. It contains many of her favorite family recipes, like Yorkshire Pudding and Johnny Cake. Over the years, she added recipes from the newspapers, from friends and from magazines. She would not write them out neatly on the pages provided in the recipe book, but would poke holes in the paper and clip it onto the rings in the binder. Tattered recipes also fill some pockets in the book.  Dog eared pages stick out from the edges of the binder and the front has some food smudges on it. And there isn’t a thing about it that I would change. I display this book proudly in my kitchen and it is a constant, familiar, wonderful, bittersweet reminder of my mom.

So, yesterday, I was sure that I would find the shortbread recipe in this collection of treasured recipes. As I opened the cover, memories of learning to cook and to bake from my mom and then cooking and baking with my mom came flooding back. Visions of Yule Log, Oatmeal Cookies and Sour Cream Coffee Cake danced in my head (to coin a phrase). Recipes, written on sticky and floury envelopes, scraps of paper and even on grocery lists, graced the pages of Mom’s favorites and must tries.  I looked through the book twice, but much to my disappointment, the recipe just was not there.

Xmas Shortbread

Xmas Shortbread

My dog-eared Recipe

My dog-eared Recipe

Back to the backup plan. I searched through my own pile of dog eared and sticky recipes. The apple does not fall far from the tree. Ah, ha! here it is-the recipe that “littlest sister” and I used when we had our catering establishment way back when. Let me tell you, I have made lots of shortbread in my time. But, like most recipes, this recipe lists butter made from cow’s milk as one of its main ingredients. And, as you know, I do not use cow’s milk butter for any purpose, even if it is to uphold a tradition. No problem – I started using Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks. But that has all changed since I found out that Earth Balance is comprised mostly of palm oil. I have ethical objections to the production and use of palm oil, so I just don’t use Earth Balance anymore.

shortbread 18

Coconut Oil

Taste Ready

Taste Ready

Coconut oil came to mind as an option, so I thought, why not try it out. I did some research and was assured that coconut oil can be substituted for butter in a one to one ratio, even though one website suggested adding 80% oil and 20 % water in order to better mimic the composition of dairy butter. I wasn’t sure how to do that, so I went with the majority and substituted one for one. The cookie dough looked fine as I pressed it into the  cookie molds that I use every Xmas. But they took so darn long to cook, like twice the time and they did feel a bit oily to the touch. Time for a hot, just out of the oven, but slightly cooled, taste test. This is the tough part of my job, but I do this for you LOL! The cookie tasted fine –  buttery, flaky, not too sweet, but that oily feel did not sit well with me. So, back to the computer for more research.

Time for another batch. I reduced the amount of oil by one quarter and had another go, with much better results. Less oily, but, interestingly enough, not less cooking time. This may need some tweaking before next Xmas rolls around.

Without further adieu, here is my revised, plant placed rendition of Melting Moments (aka shortbread cookies). Scroll down for the Printable Recipe.

1). Measure coconut oil and place in bowl of mixer. I weigh the coconut oil. One cup equals 8 ounces or 227 grams. You can also spoon and press the oil into a measuring cup, making sure there are no air pockets.

Oil and Icing sugar

Oil and Icing sugar

Shortbread 02

Creamed Coconut Oil

2). Cream coconut oil well. I noticed that the oil retained little lumps far longer than butter does. So, do the finger pinching test until the lumps are mostly gone.

3). Sift the icing sugar and add to the oil in one shot. Remember folks, unless you want to have icing sugar all over your face, please incorporate slow-w-ly. If you hear a whooomp!!! sound you are already in big trouble. Beat for about three minutes until light and fluffy.

4). Add the cornstarch and beat until well blended.

Crumbly Dough

Crumbly Dough

Cookie Ready

Cookie Ready

5). Sift the flour  before adding to the batter. Mix on medium speed until mixture forms a ball around the paddle. Don’t despair if the batter is crumbly at first. I assure you, it will form a ball.

Oven Ready

Oven Ready

Ready to Roll

Ready to Roll

6) Press cookies into shortbread molds. You may also form dough into a uniform ball, place on a well floured counter, roll out to about 1/4 inch and use cookie cutters or a knife to create your desired shape.

7). Cool trays in fridge for 10 minutes and then bake at 300 degrees F. for 25-30 minutes.

8). Cool cookies on trays for ten minutes and then place on cookie racks.

9). Store in the freezer.

Shortbread
Print Recipe
Melt in your mouth plant based and palm oil free shortbread that is reminiscent of the Xmases of our childhood.
Servings Prep Time
5 dozen 30 minutes
Cook Time
25-30 minutes
Servings Prep Time
5 dozen 30 minutes
Cook Time
25-30 minutes
Shortbread
Print Recipe
Melt in your mouth plant based and palm oil free shortbread that is reminiscent of the Xmases of our childhood.
Servings Prep Time
5 dozen 30 minutes
Cook Time
25-30 minutes
Servings Prep Time
5 dozen 30 minutes
Cook Time
25-30 minutes
Ingredients
  • 3/4 lb coconut oil use organic and unprocessed if possible
  • 1 cup icing sugar sifted
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 2 2/3 cups white flour sifted
Servings: dozen
Instructions
  1. Cream coconut oil for about three minutes until smooth.
  2. Sift and add icing sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about three minutes.
  3. Add cornstarch and beat until blended.
  4. Sift flour and add to mixture and beat on medium speed to blend until ball forms around paddle.
Pressed Cookies
  1. Press dough into ungreased molds and prick with a fork.
  2. Cool in fridge for ten minutes.
  3. Bake at 325 degrees F. for 25-30 minutes until centers are mostly crisp.
  4. Cool in pan for ten minutes.
  5. Using the edge of small, sharp paring knife, gently pry up one corner of cookie and then lift cookie onto cookie rack.
  6. Store in freezer.
Rolled Cookies
  1. Form dough into a uniform ball.
  2. Place on a well floured surface.
  3. Roll out to 1/4 inch thickness.
  4. Cut into desired shapes or use your favorite cookie cutters.
  5. Prick with a fork and place on parchment covered trays.
  6. Cool in fridge for ten minutes.
  7. Bake at 300 degrees F. for 20-25 minutes until cookies are mostly crisp in the center.
  8. Cool on tray for ten minutes and then transfer to cookie racks.
  9. Store in freezer.
Recipe Notes

Sift the icing sugar to remove any lumps.
Sift the flour to add to a lighter and flakier finished product.
Beat the coconut oil well to make sure there are no little lumps of fat remaining.
Do not overbeat the dough once the flour is added.
If you would like a shorter baking time, raise temp to 325 degrees F. and check at 8 minutes and then five minutes. I have not tested this temp out, so buyer beware.

Vegan Annie’s Handy Kitchen Tips

There is a plethora of plant based recipes out there for all of us to try.

If you have a special recipe that you would like to transform into a kind and compassionate dish, take the time to experiment.

Some things just don’t seem to work.

So, if you have to set aside a family favorite, remembering why you are doing so makes it much easier.

New traditions are good traditions.

May all beings be happy and free.

Anne

 

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11 thoughts on “Plant Based Shortbread and Xmas Memories of Mom

  • December 11, 2014 at 11:10 am
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    What a sweet, lovely post. Your mom looks like such a nice lady. Thanks for sharing about her and for veganizing her recipe. 🙂 If I can get time, I’m going to try to make some cookies! (Starting cat sitting for the holidays soon and it’s a long commute…). You do such an amazing job posting recipes! … Your memories brought back some of my own. I have no idea what ingredients specifically my mother used, but I used to eat ridiculous amounts of dough. It must have been mostly sugar, I remember the taste of it. And she’d make them all season so sometimes there’s be big bowls of dough in the fridge and I’d eat so much dough. Can’t believe I never got sick!

    It’s really great to be able to show that old favorites can be made vegan and are not only just as good, but healthier and most importantly, kinder. Thanks again for sharing! Happy Holidays!

    Reply
  • December 11, 2014 at 11:32 am
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    Hey Krissa,
    Many thanks for your kind comments. It is always gratifying to know that my posts reach people on some personal level. Glad that it brought back some fond memories for you.
    My mom was the sweetest lady. She was, and still is, the guiding light in my life. Not a day goes by where I do not think of her and wish that she was still here with me.
    Holidays like Xmas are always centered around food. It is my most fervent wish, that this holiday season, people will take a moment to think, to reflect, to be kind and compassionate and to choose to eat plant based foods.
    I wish you a lovely, restful holiday. Enjoy the cat sitting.
    Anne

    Reply
  • December 12, 2014 at 5:37 am
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    Hi Anne,

    I wish your mom could be with you in person not only for the holidays, but every day. It’s clear that her spirit is alive in you and I’m sure you must miss her physical presence terribly. If I can’t come up with enough time to make the cookies before Christmas, I will do it even in January and think of her when I do. 🙂

    And I really love the term plant based and am glad you’ve used it more than once because there’s always been something about the word vegan that I just don’t “like”. Even before I was vegan – and clearly, everything about being vegan is not only what I like, it’s what I love. So I’m already thinking “plant based” and “cruelty free” almost automatically now. It might just be that those terms are going to be helpful in reaching non-vegans….you never know. Thanks again for the lovely post.

    Hugs,
    Krissa
    Krissa

    Reply
    • January 17, 2015 at 9:07 am
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      We’ll see how this is going to work….I don’t eat refined sugar (since 1997) and always use substitutes. I don’t bake often though and didn’t find a substitute online that sounded like it would be a good replacement for the powdered sugar. So I’m making them without it and going to do what I do with the vegan pancakes I make without sugar and just put “jelly” or molasses on them as a topping. I’m sure it will work. They still smell very good even without the sugar! I do love the smell of baking. 🙂

      Reply
      • January 19, 2015 at 5:49 am
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        Hi Krissa,
        Interesting! I know that sugar is not good for us and I try to keep its use to a minimum. My poor hubby is not on board with this, but I feel that it is important. Sweets are a constant temptation for me and it is better if they are not in the house.
        Take care,
        Anne

        Reply
  • December 12, 2014 at 2:34 pm
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    Hi Krissa,
    Thanks for your kind words about my mom. It means a lot to me.
    When Donald Watson coined the word veganism in 1944, he was specific that our practices and behaviours as humans reject the exploitation of all nonhuman beings, wherever possible. This would include zoos, hunting for sports, medical experiments and so forth. He said that, in dietary terms, we should not eat any products derived from nonhumans.
    I think it is very important to preserve this definition and not say that being vegan is about our health or what we eat.
    So, that is why I call plant food, plant food and not vegan food. Food cannot be vegan, only people can. I am so glad that someone like you understands the distinction and why it is so important to be clear.
    Kindest regards,
    Anne
    PS: Thanks for the hug!!!

    Reply
  • December 14, 2014 at 9:32 pm
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    Okay, I’m not gonna lie, I pretty much detest baking (other than apple crisp where I don’t have to be precise with ingredients or directions) and even reading recipes usually makes me unreasonably cranky within a minute, snort, so won’t be making these.

    But, like Krissa, I thought this was an awfully sweet and lovely post to read, and it brought back warm memories of being young and licking out numerous bowls because mom DID like to bake, and for that I would like to thank you for sharing as well. 🙂

    p.s. I do like EATING baked goods, so maybe if I found myself a personal baker, chef, and veganic farmer, I’d be all set… 😉

    Reply
    • December 15, 2014 at 7:55 am
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      Hey Friend ,
      I hear you about the baking. It does take a lot of time, but I still do enjoy it. I don’t bake that much anymore because we do not add fat to our daily diets. But, Xmas seems to call for goodies, so I do get into the spirit of things.
      Glad that my story brought back some good memories for you. Let me know when you find the perfect person to bake, cook and grow food for you. I might be interested. LOL!
      Anne

      Reply
  • October 24, 2016 at 11:10 am
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    Hi Anne!
    I am so making this shortbread. I used to love shortbread and haven’t had it since being vegan. The story of you and your mum is lovely. I can tell she still has a daily influence on your life. She sounds like a lovely mum. I am so glad you had these fond memories growing up. I have similar memories of my Nanna. Is that an English word? I am not sure but anyway, my Nanna taught me to bake, yes with eggs and butter and I do still have fond memories of it even though these memories are tainted with sadness now because of the animal secretion ingredients.

    I would love to veganise these recipes by doing what you have done. I will post you some pics when I have made them. My Nanna was the only person in my family who loved me
    and without her I don’t think I would be still here today.

    Christmas is all about love.

    Take care

    Rachel

    Reply
    • October 28, 2016 at 9:49 am
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      Hi Rachel,
      Just saw your Facebook post about the shortbread cookies. They look amazing. Keep it up.
      Take care.
      Anne

      Reply
      • October 28, 2016 at 9:49 am
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        PS: Grandmothers are the best!!!

        Reply

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