I have proclaimed this to be my absolute favourite cookie. Many a friend and client have asked why. A question that is really hard for me to find the words to adequately answer. Because at the end of the day, there are so many fantastic Christmas cookies. From Ginger Molasses to Sugar cookies and everything in-between. My website will slowly fill up with more and more favourites as time goes on. But what makes the Shortbread Thumbprint my tried and true win year after year?
And here is the story that will help to explain the “why” behind my fascination with this one; little two bite; cookie.
50 Mount Edward Road
I can still see her. Puttering around the kitchen in her comfy Northern Reflections sweater I picked up for Mother’s Day during my very short stint in retail. Purple and Pink with patterns of snowflakes peppered throughout. She’s concentrating and diligently focused. Moving across the counter space with the precision of a surgeon. Delicately measuring out her dough in 1 oz portions by touch and feel. Rolling each one between dainty hands as she molds the perfect little ball. Gingerly she dips these gorgeous yellow treats into frothy egg whites before drowning them in crushed almonds. With a feather light touch she places the perfect little indent with her thumb. Directly in the middle. Shortbread Thumbprints. Literally.
The artist in her emerges as she measures each pan with perfect military lines. Counting to make certain numbers are even. The recipe says it yields 30 of these little morsels and she’s determined to hold this prediction to task.
Without skipping a beat she places the pan into the oven and repeats her process again. Eyeing the blinking and slightly faded neon green stove light. 10 minutes. She has 10 minutes before she is on deck to briskly remove her work from its warm setting. The bottoms will be perfectly golden. Not dark brown, not pale yellow. Rather a perfect hue of honey. Every time. Like a seasoned magician whose trick never fails to produce shock and awe.
She doesn’t see me. Convinced I have no interest in her elegantly choreographed steps she is not even aware of my 16 year old eyes following her every move. I have carefully watched this performance every year. Anticipating the grand finale. That moment when she delicately pipes my favourite berry jam into her dainty thumbprints. Carefully making certain the jam does not drip, dribble, or spill from its comfortable little almond nest.
She waves her hands like that of a seasoned artist as she drizzles white chocolate over each mound of berry goodness. The zig zag of thin chocolate lines decorate each two bite treat with uniformed uniqueness.
Her work is done. Standing back she admires the spread before her. Her smile is frozen, laugh lines crinkling with delight as she silently praises herself for a job well done.
She walks away. Off to gather the waxed paper and moderately rusted Christmas Cookie tins she had washed and placed in the cedar closet last year. I watch her leave. Quietly as to not reveal my curious eyes peeking from behind the banister.
Then I spot it. My chance. The moment I have been waiting for. I rush in. Lacking any grace and forgoing any sense of body awareness I reach for the tray. Filling my hands with as many cookies as they can hold I bolt out of the room. Leaping up the stairs two at a time I fly into my bedroom and using my heel, slam the door shut. Then I indulge.
I can hear her wandering back into her creative space. I listen to the crinkle of the paper and clanging sheet pans as they stack one after another in the sink. Then the footsteps. Slowly up the stairs at a patient pace they stop at my door. A gentle knock.
I have been found out. My brash thievery did not go unnoticed. As I whisper for her to come in, she stands with the same grin. Holding a glass a milk and a napkin. Joining me on the edge of my bed, she unwraps her white linen to reveal two more shortbread thumbprints cookies.
“Care to join me? One more and you’ve had half a dozen. Shall we just go for it.”
Laughter permeates the room. Cookie crumbs fall like snow upon my floor as we share a moment. A memory. One I will hang on to every single Holiday Season for the rest of my days.