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For the second year in a row, Paul and I have traded holiday parties and family dinners and piles and piles of sugar for sun and surf and mellow nights and piles and piles of rice and beans. And cold cervazas. And the best fruit you’ve ever imagined; just this morning I ate a slice of pineapple so juicy it ran down my arms and so sweet it tasted nearly as though it had been dipped in sugar. But we’ll be talking about the magnificent food and drink of Costa Rica soon enough, so on to other business.

I had aspirations of keeping up weekly blogging while on holiday here, but between surfing lessons and reading under the shade of a palm tree and scratching mosquito bites, there truly just hasn’t been time. Today I needed a little break from baking in the sun, so I thought I’d share a recipe for some of my favourite holiday baking for those of you who are in the midst of festive stuffs.

These brown sugar shortbread cookies turn up every year during the holidays at my family house. I can’t say where the recipe originated from, because I honestly don’t know; my mother has it scribbled in her near undecipherable spidery doctor-lady handwriting in a book that a friend of hers gave to her when she moved out west a zillion or so years ago. They are so simple, containing only three ingredients; butter, brown sugar, and flour. And they are so good. Buttery and caramelly, they aren’t a dainty, melt-in-your-mouth shortbread cookie like those featuring powdered sugar and corn starch can be. This is a solid shortbread cookie.  A tough shortbread cookie. I imagine that if loggers baked shortbread cookies, they would bake these.

The dough comes together quickly, and don’t fret if it seems like a powdery mess, I promise you it’s not. The warmth of your fingers will bring the dough together into a cohesive mound that is easy enough to roll out, and doesn’t require any refrigeration beforehand.  The trick to these cookies is rolling them out to just the right thinness; too thin and they’ll burn, too thick and they won’t cook properly. These star shaped beauties, which I whipped together and photographed the morning before I left for Costa Rica, were rolled out just right. I’m going to say that around 1cm thick is what you’re going for.

I think these cookies are near perfection in their stark simplicity, but if you want to take things to the next level, you can dunk or drizzle them in melted chocolate once they have cooled. That combination may well just be Paul’s favourite holiday cookie. In any case, it’s the only one he requests time after time. If you’ve still got cookie baking left in you, make a batch of these. You won’t regret it.

And just so you know, this is where I’m writing this post from:

Brown Sugar Shortbread Recipe:

This recipe can make anywhere from 24 to 48 cookies, depending on the size of your cookie cutter. These little stars, which I’m going to say are about 4 cm in diameter, are, I think, the perfect size.

1/2 lb room temperature butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 cups all purpose flour, sifted.

Preheat oven to 350 C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

With an electric mixer, mix brown sugar and butter together until well blended, and slightly fluffy. Mix in the flour, careful not to make a terrible mess with the mixer. Once it looks blended, but like a powdery mess that doesn’t in any way resemble a cookie dough, get in there with your hands and knead it all together. Form dough into a ball. On a slightly floured surface, roll the dough out to about 1cm thick. Using a cookie cutter, cut into shapes, and transfer carefully to prepared baking sheet, leaving a little space between cookies. Once sheet is full, place into oven for about 10 – 12 min, rotating pans half way through. Cookies are done when they have turned golden brown, but not dark brown. Cool on a wire rack.


All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2010