The Maine 2010 Holidays: Grandma’s Cookies

text by Margaret Hathaway, photo by Karl Schatz

Every year, about this time, a package would arrive from my grandma, Honey. No matter where her children and grandchildren were living–be it in Kansas or Cannes–a tin of buttery cookies, layered in waxed paper, would come to our doorsteps, arriving in time for us to enjoy them on her birthday, December 21. This tactic also, sneakily, ensured that we remembered her birthday. As an adult, Honey’s cookies found me in Tunisia, in Paris, and in New York. When I was a little girl, their comforting flavors of home came to us in Orleans, France, where my mother had moved us while she was on sabbatical (“Coals to Newcastle, wasn’t it?” a friend of mine later commented). Honey, whose real name was Charlotte, has been gone for almost a decade, and in her absence, I make the cookies now. Each December, my daughters Charlotte and Beatrice and I pull out the recipe cards, in Honey’s careful hand. They’re written, one baker to another, peppered with shorthands and parenthetical substitutions, marked by occasional omissions. Cookies cover the dining room table and we sneak nibbles as the girls and I pack up boxes, one for each aunt, uncle and cousin, mailed just in time.

Honey’s Scotch Shortbread

Yield: makes 3 dozen

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, sifted

Cream butter well. Gradually add sugar, creaming till light and fluffy. Stir in flour. Chill.

On lightly floured surface, roll to 1/4 to 1/2 inch. Cut with 2-inch round cutters or into 2 1/2 inch strips.

Bake on ungreased cookie sheet in slow oven (300 degrees) 25 to 30 minutes or until very lightly browned.

Remove from pan to cool.