This week at Sunday School, the kids made little cut outs from carrot slices, using little cookie cutters. It immediately brought me back to my childhood years, where these are almost always found in chinese stir fry dishes in restaurants in Hong Kong. Next moment I get a flash back of these wonderful citrusy shortbread biscuits I used to make, using the same cookie cutters. This could be among the first few things we learnt to bake at school, perhaps even before we did the good old chocolate chip cookies.
When we got home, I ran to the kitchen and dug through my folder of old recipes to see if I’d brought it to NZ.
There, among other old recipes, is this recipe on letter-sized paper with typewriter-style font. The paper is still impeccably clean, straight and readable.
I said to J: ‘look, this is mummy’s recipes from 20 years ago! It is still perfect!’ she gave me a funny look, like ‘what is 20 years??’. I stopped myself from explaining about ageing, remembering that she had earlier espressed her dislike of growing old.
Just like that, I was brought back to that school kitchen 20 years ago, baking alongside my friends. It warmed my heart to remember that I’ve always loved cooking, with the joys of success in the kitchen not matched or surpassed by many other things (well perhaps a perfectly exposed photo in the dark room in my later years). This isn’t just a hobby, it is what makes me, ME. That’s why a day off at home usually means a baking marathon or culinary challenge. That’s why I record, watch and re-watch episodes of Masterchef Masterclass. That’s why I have an insatiable appetite for cook books, cooking shows, learning new techniques and cooking challenges.
I have just found another piece of the puzzle about who I AM.
250 g butter (firm, straight out from fridge)
350g plain flour
a pinch of salt
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon or orange or lime
100g caster sugar
Extra caster sugar for dredging
Line two baking sheets with baking paper, preheat the oven to 170°C.
Sift the flour and salt together, then rub in the butter until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Use a knife to cut further to make it more crumbly. This will take about 10 minutes. It was quite nice feeling the textures come together in my hands, and the memory of doing it the first time is still right there in my head, bringing a smile to my face. I resisted the temptation of getting the processor out.
Add the sugar and zest, then knead the mixture until it binds well together. It will be crumbly at first, but just give it a good knead and it will come together.
Turn this dough onto a lightly floured board and press into a round shape. Roll out to 1cm thick.
These are the cutters I used – 20 years ago!
Cut with cutters, re- roll left overs and cut until the dough’s all been cut.
Prick the shortbread surfaces with a fork.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until surface is golden.
Remove from oven, leaving it to rest on sheets for another few minutes, before transferring carefully to wire racks to cool for a bit.
I also remember dredging them with caster sugar but it isn’t in the original recipe…
I couldn’t resist making little “Thomas” and “Percy” engine-shaped biscuits…the flowers look like the steam clouds! Cute~
I hope you will enjoy making these as much as I did!
To my friends of class 2X: do you remember these? how long has it been since you made some? Carmen, what about you?