This past weekend I went out to visit my grandmother in good ol’ Scranton, PA (for those of you that are unfamiliar it’s pronounced Pee-Ay, not Pennsylvania). Perhaps you’ve heard of this town. I believe there’s a pretty popular TV show that is supposed to take place there. The Cubicle or some such nonsense. I kid, obviously it’s called The Corporation, or Dunder-Mifflin.
There really isn’t much that’s exciting in Scranton (make sure you really nasalize that “an” sound so you get the full effect). Except for the old signs. There is a panoply of old rusty, dirty, hand lettered signs in that town. In my day job I work in design, and while I’m currently working with more high-end items my true passion lies with old dirty stuff, things that still have the stink of history on them. Yeah, I’m totally weird.
Sadly for me, such a passion is now labeled “hipster” and I fear as I’ve become older and more senile at the ripe age of almost 27, I’ve become more and more hipster. It’s a sad truth that I’m only now beginning to accept.
But back to the stench of history. I like my history the way I like my cheese, stinky and moldy; I want to smell it and sense it before I see it. It’s like that old book smell, and why The BF no longer lets me go into used book stores. It’s addictive. If they made a car freshener that smelled like old books I’d buy a million, hang them in every room of the house.
One of our favorite shows to watch is American Pickers (I’m totally Team Mike, he’s got a sweet tattoo on his arm). Our interests don’t always intersect with what they find interesting but when it comes to old porcelain, neon, or wooden signs, I’m like a kid in a candy shop. During my first stint in graduate school my friend Tessa had all these rad old signs in her apartment that I was always desperately trying to devise a way to steal. Never happened, lucky for her.
What I also love about my grandmother is that she’ll pull these pieces out of the depths of her closets or storage shed, and be completely unaware of their worth. For example, for the last 30 years or so, she’s been using an original Radio Flyer wagon to tote stuff back and forth across the street to her sisters’ houses. My eyes nearly popped out of my head. In mint condition those things are worth money. Even hers could snag a few dollar bills. It’s like that town is stuck in time.
This shortbread recipe is also stuck in time. It’s from the original Fannie Farmer Cookbook (I love me some historical recipes). I tweaked it, for flavor and because I was feeling lazy and didn’t want to wait for my butter to soften. These are some of the most delicate shortbread cookies you’ll ever eat. They shatter in your mouth in the most addictive way. These are no Walkers Shortbread (are you familiar with this amazing brand of European (I believe British or Scottish) shortbread? Oh lord don’t try it if you haven’t, you’ll instantly gain 40 pounds eating all the packages in sight), but they are darn tasty.
Adapted from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cubed and cold
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup almond meal
1/4 tsp salt
splash of vanilla
In the bowl of a food processor pulse together the sugar, flour, almond meal and salt to combine. Add one stick worth of cubed butter and pulse until coarse and sandy. Add the remaining butter and pulse until a sticky dough is formed. If the dough is too sticky to easily remove from the bowl, add another 1/4 cup of flour, pulsing to combine.
Turn out half the dough on a piece of wax paper and finagle it into a log. It’s really sticky and can be a little tricky, but even if your log isn’t pretty it doesn’t matter, the cookies bake up pretty well regardless. Do the same with the remaining dough.
Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 hours, or overnight. At this point they can remain chilled wrapped in plastic for three days in the fridge or a month or two in the freezer if double wrapped.
Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silpat. Remove one log from the fridge and slice into 1/4in thick pieces. Try to keep the cookies uniform so they bake evenly. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Let cool slightly on the cookie sheet to harden before removing to cool on a wire rack. Be very careful, these cookies break easily. They are not good cookies to pack for shipping.
Cookies will keep for a week in an airtight container.