After the storm . . . thankful for warmth, light and baking early

2013 Tree

After the worst ice storm in Toronto’s history and more than 40 hours without power, I was losing hope that I’d see the bright lights of our lovely tree on Christmas Eve. But last night at dinner time our power was restored and we all did a little dance of joy.

I stayed up late to enjoy the lights of the tree and count my blessings. We are so thankful to have warmth and light for the holiday. Our greatest wish was to be able to cook our turkey dinner here at home on Christmas Day. Simple pleasures really do mean the most. This is the powerful reminder the ice storm has left behind.

It is such a hectic time of year so you can imagine the impact of this widespread outage with close to 250,000 homes and businesses without power. Our neighbourhood was hard hit and many of the small shops and businesses were out of commission for several days. Only one of the five grocery stores in the area was open yesterday. I battled the crowds and walked for 30 minutes with an 11 lb frozen turkey . . . so you know it is going to be the best turkey ever. Starbucks was wall-to-wall with people (including me) recharging their phones so that they could reconnect with friends and family. It brought out the best in everyone and we appreciated all of the offers for help.

But it hasn’t been a good week for those who leave things to the last minute.

While I typically count myself part of the last-minute crowd for many things, baking isn’t one of them. This is one time that I’m glad I had all of my baking done for the season. One of my favourite cookies this year was shortbreads. I made them several different ways and found this to be a real time saver. I’ve included photos and the recipe below.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas with your family and friends. I hope that your Christmas is filled with simple pleasures. Our thoughts go out to the more than 125,000 homes in the Toronto area who are still waiting for power.

Stocking Shortbread

Shortbread

Recipe from Christmas Cookies from the Whimsical Bakehouse

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup icing sugar

¼ tsp salt

1 lb cold unsalted butter, cut into ½ cubees

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350˚.

Line two cookie sheets with parchment.

Sift together flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer.

Add butter and mix on low until the dough comes together.

On a lightly floured board, roll the dough out to a thickness of ¼ inch. Cut out your desired shape(s) using cookie cutters and arrange about an inch apart on the lined cookie sheets. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes for small cookies or 10 to 15 minutes for larger cookies, or until lightly coloured.

Let the cookies cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Adaptation for Chocolate Shortbreads

Follow same recipe and method above except:

  • replace 4 cups of all-purpose flour with 3.5 cups of all-purpose flour and ½ cup cocoa powder;
  • add 2 extra tablespoons of cold unsalted butter
  • Use a stocking shaped cookie cutter
  • Prick each cookie once with a fork
  • Once baked, dip the top of the stockings in melted white chocolate and sprinkle with smashed candy cane pieces

Adaptation for Cranberry Orange Shortbread

Follow basic shortbread recipe and method, but add a handful of chopped dried sweetened cranberries and zest of small orange. Mix well. Cut and bake.

Shortbread three way

Shortbreads three ways: Chocolate dipped shortbread stars; snowflakes sprinkled with sanding sugar and orange & cranberry shortbreads

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