There are many versions of shortbread, but only one recipe that counts, from the back of the old cornstarch box. The first time I had shortbread was in the early seventies at Chatam House. Chatam House was a dilapidated old building in the Prince Rupert harbour in those days, long before the port came to town. I am not sure what it was used for at the turn of the last century, my guess it was a boarding house, but by the time I arrived in Rupert it was a rat infested venue with a daycare downstairs and a halfway house for reforming alcoholic men upstairs. And yours truly, twenty years of age was the assistant cook. Ann Eggleton and I cleared away the remains of the breakfast the guys made on their own, and then cooked lunch and dinner for them. AA had a Christmas party in the lounge one year and as one of the house mommies I was invited by the residents. That is where I had the same shortbread with candied cherries in the middle for the first time. Ever since I could never bring myself to decorate it any other way.
3/4 cup soft butter
1 cup flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup icing sugar
• Cream the butter a little but do not beat it until frothy, it should not grow in volume. Creaming the butter on its own will help the dough come together, but overbeating will make it too soft to handle.
• Sift together the flour, cornstarch and the icing sugar.
• Combine the creamed butter with the flour mixture.
• You can flavor the shortbread with some vanilla bean scraping, but extract adds moisture and makes the dough too wet and chilling the dough will not help much.
• Shape the dough into 1 inch balls.
• Place 1- 1/2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
• Flatten with lightly floured fork and decorate with candied cherries.
• Bake at 300F for 15-20 minutes until edges are lightly browned.