Among all the debris, which is how my father diplomatically referred to it, there would be artifacts of another kind — those made by her children. Until she moved five years ago, the paper plate plaster mold of my first-grade hand, painted in bright yellow, was still on display, next to various collectibles of other eras gone by.
Mother's Day is always a personal challenge, because gifts for Susan can never be ordinary. Over the years, I have found success in gifts of doing vs. buying. This year, I'm thinking of fixing her afternoon tea. We'll dust off one of her ancient teapots, put on a Betty Carter CD, and I'll make shortbread, even though she'll complain that it's high in carbs.
This shortbread is so easy, even Susie could make it — but I'll leave her to setting a most fanciful and wacky table instead, resplendent with Pez dispensers, snow-globes and, hopefully, my paper-plate mold.
Adapted from The New Tea Book by Sara Perry
1 cup salted cashews, finely chopped (food processor or blender is best)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter
1-2 teaspoons granulated sugar
Optional (but highly recommended): 1 tablespoon finely chopped crystallized ginger
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Use either a springform pan (with removable rim) or a 9-inch cake pan; if using cake pan, line with parchment paper. Note: The springform pan makes the post-baking part a breeze. In a medium bowl, add cashews, flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch and powdered ginger (and crystallized ginger, if using). Mix with a wooden spoon to combine. Using the large holes of a flat or box grater, grate butter into the flour mixture. (The colder the butter, the better; frozen butter is ideal.) With your fingers, work butter into rest of ingredients. At first, the mixture will be crumbly, but as butter softens, it will become malleable. Shape into a ball. Pat mixture into pan. Press to an even thickness, covering the entire bottom surface of the pan. Pierce dough with a fork. Bake until golden brown, 40-45 minutes. Upon removing from oven, sprinkle granulated sugar over the surface. Use a sharp knife to cut into 12 pie-like wedges. Let cool in pan for at least 15 minutes; you'll notice that shortbread hardens quickly, which is a good thing. Store in airtight container.
- Kim O'Donnel
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