"After years in New York City, Georgia O'Keefe moved to rural New Mexico, from which she would sign her letters to the people she loved, 'from the faraway nearby.' It was a way to measure physical and psychic geography together. Emotion has its geography, affection is what is nearby, within the boundaries of the self. You can be a thousand miles from the person next to you in bed or deeply invested in the survival of a stranger on the other side of the world."
~ Rebecca Solnit, from "The Faraway Nearby"
I'm sharing this quote for a couple of reasons. 1) I've always been a bit obsessed with Georgia O'Keefe. In art school I tried to emulated her style, with little success. She was bold and brave and loved the sky, as do I. Plus she lived to be almost 100. I swear one day I will make a pilgrimage to New Mexico, that's how much I love her. And I love how she ended her letters. I might just have to copy-cat that. 2) This past week was bonkers busy, with work and deadlines and me feeling a tad under the weather didn't help matters. But I still managed to put 40 or so Christmas cards and packages in the mail. Some were sent to old friends and new; across the globe and to downtown Saskatoon. With each address I scripted - especially the ones with destinations so far abroad - I wondered if I would ever see that person again. Circumstances wrangle us in so many ways, and while we come together for brief or long periods of time, in the end our paths won't always run parallel. But those who make a lasting impression will always carve themselves into my heart. That's why at Christmas, I'll always sit down with a stack of cards and a good pen. While the greeting may be brief, the intention runs deep. The holidays are about hope and blessings and goodwill (and good eats!), but for me I become a bit of reflector. What I wouldn't give to have every soul I've ever loved in my living room. But at Christmas, in a way, they are. The faraway nearby, indeed.
I've been baking like a madwoman these past few weeks. There were grand intentions of sharing way more recipes on this site, but alas, baking then finding the time to write about it are two different things. I'll try to roll them out in the new year though - especially the dark chocolate pistachio sables and sesame date salted caramels. I promise. Count your lucky stars for the recipe I'm giving you today. It's one to bookmark for sure, especially if you love shortbread as much as I. Seriously. This dough is so good raw, it's a wonder I got any cookies baked at all. The recipe is taken from a cookbook called "Generation Eats", by Amy Rosen. Published in the late '90s, each recipe has three accompanying movie suggestions. Purchased while an old friend and I wandered the streets of Toronto one late summer night near the end of the last century, this book is splattered and creased and now falling apart. Well loved, it is. If you can find a copy, it's full of great recipes, this shortbread being one of my favourite cookies, ever. Big words, I know!
The real issue at hand is being sure you save enough Toblerone chunks for the cookies, and not your belly. It's difficult, but do your best. Butter and brown sugar are creamed together until extra fluffy - a few minutes at least. This will enable that melt-in-your-mouth quality that all good shortbread needs to have. Gradually add flour - I used a combo of oat and all purpose - and then start rolling. Any shape will do - I just happen to love stars. Place a suitably sized chunk of chocolate goodness in the middle, then bake for about 10 minutes. You want the edges to just creep on being lightly browned. They'll puff up a little, too. Stored in an airtight container, they are best kept at room temp for a couple of days, and I swear are even better on the second day. They freeze like a dream, too. Tucked into the gift boxes of goodies I'm sending out this year, it's a way of bridging the distance, one bite at a time.
Brown Sugar Shortbread with Toblerone Chunks
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup oat flour (or all purpose)
2 100gram bars of Toblerone chocolate, cut into chunks
Preheat oven to 325*F.
In the bowl of a mixer, cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy - about 3 minutes. Stir in the vanilla and gradually add the flours, mixing just until dough can be formed into stiff ball. If too sticky, add more flour. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface - about 1/4 inch thick. Cut into desired shapes, place on parchment lined bake sheet, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie. Use your thumb to lightly imprint the middle then place a Toblerone chunk in the dent. Bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly browned. Cool on wire rack. Store at room temp for 2-3 days, or freeze. Makes about 3 dozen cookies. Recipe adapted from Generation Eats, by Amy Rosen.
P.S. In case you're wondering, the 3 flicks Amy chose to go with these cookies are A Christmas Story; The Biscuit Eater; and It's A Wonderful Life.