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.