The days are getting shorter and the cold air is starting to blow. It's growing closer to that point when we'll all want to crawl into our cozy warm homes to hibernate for the winter.
We are now officially into the time of year that I think of affectionately as the "hot beverage months." Those days when the world only seems right when your hands are wrapped carefully around a steaming mug of coffee, tea or cocoa. There is some dissension around here as to what that mug should hold. Papa likes his coffee strong and pure, unsullied by cream and sugar. Mama likes a light cup of black tea (or a cup of quite sweet and quite creamy mocha.) The Five Baby Bears, collectively, like a mug of marshmallow-topped hot chocolate.
On this we all agree, though; a cup of something hot requires a cookie.
In our home, a cookie jar is well-nigh impossible to keep filled. Lack of cookies is not an option. The solution is a stack of cookie recipes that can be turned out last minute to keep the whole crew happy. Here are two of our favorites.
Real, honest-to-goodness Scottish Shortbread is a thing of beauty. Deceptively simple to make, the depth of flavor is surprising. Rich, not-too-sweet, and slightly crumbly, shortbread is about as perfect an accompaniment to a cuppa as ever there was. The real trick to Scottish Shortbread is using a blend of all-purpose flour and rice flour (or cornstarch if rice flour is unavailable where you shop.) This blend prevents some of the "floury" taste and texture associated with most homemade shortbread.
The intense vanilla punch in these cookies is provided by ground vanilla (which is exactly what its name describes) or vanilla powder, both of which are usually sold by bulk foods stores or by well-stocked groceries. If you are not able to find ground vanilla or vanilla powder, you can substitute an equal quantity of vanilla extract, but the flavor will not be as powerful.
If you can stand to wait, the flavor of this shortbread is even better a handful of days after baking. Because they improve with age, they are a wonderful choice for holiday baking. I make and freeze these before I do anything else on my Christmas cookie list because they hold up so wonderfully.
Pssst. Should you decide to dunk these in chocolate or top with chocolate hazelnut spread you might be called a genius.