Even with all the giggling when I realized that the whirring sounded like the song from 2001: A Space Odyssey, I was able to get a batch of shortbread made. I used my great-great aunt's recipe, which is so simple but so good! My mom has made these for as long as I can remember. I was always too intimidated to actually try making them in the presence of my mother as she was the master at making them. The thing she drilled into me is that shortbread is all about the process. The ingredients are simple:
1 lb butter, softened
1 cup sugar
4 cups white flour
Set the butter out to soften in the morning. Go to work or whatever it is you do all day. Come home and make supper. Clean the table and dishes. Tuck your kids into bed. Once your house is filled with the sound of snoring children you can make this recipe. It has nothing to do with the snoring and everything to do with softening your butter naturally, at room temperature. If you soften your butter in the microwave, you might as well leave it on the counter and go out for the evening. Try again tomorrow.
When you're really ready, preheat the oven to 285 F.
Put your naturally softened butter in your mixing bowl. Add sugar ...
... and cream together.
Measure out 4 cups of flour.
Add the flour, 1/4 cup at a time until combined.
If you are doing this without the aid of a KitchenAid stand mixer, you'll need to mix the last cup or so by hand with a wooden spoon. Flour the counter where you'll be working. If the dough sticks to your fingers as you put it out onto the counter you're going to need to mix in more flour.
Pat the dough down by hand to about 1/2 inch thick...
Then, with a rolling pin, roll it a couple millimeters lower to smooth it out.
Cut out with whichever cookie cutter you'd like, about 1 1/2 inches wide. Place cookies on a cookie sheet. With a toothpick, poke some holes in the cookies to allow air to flow through.
Bake at 285 F for 20-30 minutes, depending on thickness and width.
These can be frozen, but do not store them with other goodies. They will absorb moisture and flavours from the goodies, at which point they cease to be shortbread and are just plain old sugar cookies. Enjoy!