shortbread and long stories

shortbread fingers

 jump to the recipe

perfect shortbread recipe

Books. Do you like books? I like books. I cannot say that I devour everything out there. The truth is my book cravings come in bouts and waves. It’s kind of like when you notice your body is lacking some vital nutrient, so you start carting Costco-size bags of mixed nuts around and suddenly become a mixed-nut spokesperson, offering them to everyone around you with a knowing look that says, “You should really take better care of your health. Here, have some of my mixed nuts.”

That’s what happens to me. With books. I’ll suddenly become aware of the fact that I haven’t been reading lately and feel this overwhelming need to go out and buy a book. I start carting the book with me everywhere. Nothing else is as interesting as this book I am reading. I am filled with concern for the bookless people around me. I shake my head and mourn the dwindling number of readers.

used book store in quito, ecuador

Perhaps my passionate bursts of reading stem from the way I read as a child. Once I was into a story, it was impossible to tear me away from my book. I would stay up late into the night with a flashlight under the covers, desperate for the next page, and the next, and the next… And I could not detach myself from the story. I would start acting like the character, slowly turning my world into the world of the book. And it wasn’t all that subtle. Most notably, I harbored a steady obsession with Anne of Green Gables. I started signing my full name on all my school reports, Kaleigh Anne Bowser, “And that’s Anne with an E“, I would remind my teachers. I even underlined the E twice for good measure. I started calling friends “kindred spirits” and telling my family I was in “the depths of despair” if I was in a bad mood. I swear at one point I even looked in the mirror and thought I saw red hair.

So yes, perhaps the reason I am not a consistent reader is because I know once I am involved in a story, I am involved. That kind of intensity needs to be spaced out!

la cour tisane tea

I had brought a few books with me to Ecuador. But there was so much bus traveling at the beginning that I finished them off sooner than anticipated. After a few months, the familiar awareness came over me. I need to read a book. I started asking around to know where I could find a used book store, with books in English, but no one knew where to point me. There were some stores in malls with a tiny section of books in English, but in addition to costing a small fortune, they were mostly about vampires. No, gracias. Besides, there is a certain charm to a used book store. I like the musty smell, the cramped feeling, and the owners who actually read the books they sell.

Alas, seven months passed with no used book store. Then one day while exploring La Mariscal district in Quito, two words on a corner building stopped us in our tracks: “USED BOOKS”

confederate books, quito, ecuador

Used books! That’s in English! We took our time in the shop, soaking in the pleasure of what we’d finally found.

english books in ecuador

kale perusing in the bookstore in ecuador

After settling on our purchases and assuring the friendly American owner that we would be back, we headed down the street. And wouldn’t you know it, another used book store! This one called The English Bookshop, as the owner himself is British.

the english bookshop, quito ecuador

It was a very, very good day.

The question of what book to start with was important. Did I want something modern and thought-provoking, or classic and comforting?

becoming vegan

I went with comfort. Echoes, by Maeve Binchy. Comforting to me because she is one of my favorite authors and I love picturing myself living in a small Irish village.

shortbread recipe

These days I’m able to maintain my own identity while reading a book. (For the most part.) But there is one habit I can’t shake. Tea, and shortbread. They are my reading must-haves.

tea and shortbread recipe

shortbread fingers recipe
inspired by Felicity Cloake’s perfect shortbread

100g unsalted butter, room temperature
100g salted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup golden sugar
2 cups white flour
1/3 cup cornflour
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
sea salt, extra

I have actually never made my own shortbread. I know, I know, how then has it been a faithful part of my reading routine? I would buy these guys. But I cannot buy those guys here! So it posed a good challenge.

I used Felicity Cloake‘s recipe for perfect shortbread as a guide.

I wanted to use rice flour, but when I asked for harina de arroz I just got a weird look from the sales clerk, so, cornflour it was! And actually I was really happy with the crumble-in-your-mouth results!

So, my version is pretty darn simple. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter with a wooden spoon until creamy and spread out. Add sugar and blend well. In another bowl, combine flour, cornflour, and salt. Add dry mixture to the butter-sugar mixture and combine with your fingers. Don’t overwork it.

Use parchment paper or even aluminum foil to line the bottom of a 26 x 22cm cake pan, leaving extra hanging over each side. Press the mixture into the pan. I put mine in the fridge for an hour before baking, to let it firm up a bit.

Preheat oven to 150°C (300°F). Remove your pan from fridge and poke all over with a fork. (I went a little poke-crazy and forgot about making pretty, even holes throughout. Woops.) Sprinkle top with the extra sea salt.

Bake for 40 minutes to an hour. Truth be told, up here in the mountains everything takes way longer because of the altitude, so I waited an hour and a half for it to be perfect. But keep your eye on it and take it out when golden and cooked through completely.

Remove from oven and allow to cool. Remove carefully using the overhanging sides of parchment paper to lift it out. Cut into fingers.

stack of perfect simple shortbread

shortbread dipped in tea

Curling up under a blanket with a good book, a pot of tea, and delicious shortbread. Just what the doctor ordered.

Confederate Books
Calama 410 y Juan Leon Mera
Quito, Ecuador

The English Bookshop

Calama y Diego de Almagro
Quito, Ecuador

posted in lend me some sugar, tea party .

20 Responses to shortbread and long stories

  1. These shortbread look long, slightly crunchy, crumby and golden – also known as perfect 😀

    Choc Chip Uru
    Latest: Tropical Caramelised Baked German Pancake

  2. we always love to eat shortbread, I make it in pizza pan and top it after its baked with glazed fresh fruits like a pizza!

  3. Lesley says:

    of all the books you can pick it’s Maeve Binchy? that’s why i love you. she is my fav. Tara road wins hand down. next, the Scarlett feather, as it’s all about cooking and catering. enjoy your used book stores in English. they are a treasure here in Mexico and Central America. xo

  4. donna picard says:

    Maeve Binchey still a favourite of mine as well along with a cup of tea. There is nothing a good cup of tea served with love will not make better.

  5. Ahhh infamous words ‘kindred spirits’. . . I’m sure you’ve used that on me before 😉 Lovely post. I’m so glad you found a bookstore! No wait, TWO!!!

  6. I am exactly the same as you when it comes to books. However I don’t have a snack to enjoy with my book. This is where this recipe will come in handy! Looks so buttery and delish 🙂

  7. Corrie Anne says:

    Oh man. I used to run out of English books when I lived in the Dominican Republic! Was always a crisis. I was a total flashlight reader as a kid as well!!

  8. kale says:

    Choc Chip Uru – Thank you! I was surprised by how easy they were to make!

    claudia @whats cookin italian cuisine – I’m usually a shortbread purist, but fresh fruit topping sounds pretty good!

    Lesley – Say WHAT? Tara Road is my fav! And I always loved Scarlet Feather. A new catering company plus that posh Dublin restaurant. Such a good read! Ah, Lesley, leave Mexico behind and come start a book club with me here in Ecuador!

    donna picard – I think you got me started on her, in fact. 🙂

    Ashley A-Photo – I swear I meant it, kindred spirit. 😉

    Anna@ The Littlest Anchovy – They make the perfect reading snacks!

    Corrie Anne – I definitely treasure finding books in English now more than ever!

  9. Shortbread is such a great cookie for tea or coffee! The interesting thing about this recipe is the corn flour. I have never tried it when making shortbread and I am wondering about the difference in the texture as well as taste with it in there. I will be trying this recipe next shortbread go around! I already buzzed this yesterday and today I have popped in and saved this recipe. Happy Monday!

  10. Liz says:

    I go through spurts where I really want to read a fabulous book…and I have that urge again, but haven’t found one to keep my attention. How wonderful you found not one, but two wonderful bookstores. And your perfect shortbread is a delicious snack for the next novel you start~

  11. Emma says:

    Shortbread is one of my favorite things to make, and I thought I’d tried about every ingredient. But not corn flour, what a good idea:)

    I am an Anne of Green Gables wild child! Every few years I re-read the Anne books (that is my reading weakness, I’m big on re-reading things over and over again), and start seeing mysteries in wooded glades, fairies in rushing brooks, enchanting spirits in friendly flowers, etc. I was overjoyed to visit PEI and the Anne house a few years back;)

  12. I can completely relate to the book obsession–I’ve always loved reading and definitely spent a lot of nights staying up past my bedtime to read. The shortbread fingers look so yummy too!

  13. kale says:

    Tina@flourtrader – Honestly the cornflour wasn’t so much a calculated move as it was the only thing I had available, but it worked out really well! It reminded me a lot of the Walkers fingers that I so loved, which was the goal! Thanks so much Tina!

    Liz – Yeah the story has to pull me in, too. I gobbled up Echoes (and the shortbread!) but the second one I started isn’t quite grabbing me the same way.

    Emma – Oh man me too! I read it over and over and always found something new. And that Gilbert. What a name…what a guy! I wanted him to materialize and pull my braids.
    My mom is actually from PEI, so we used to go visit in the summer when I was younger. The Anne of Green Gables musical at the Confederation Centre of the Arts is awesome!

    Kayle (The Cooking Actress) – See I think we were very good girls sneaking our reading while burning the midnight oil!

  14. kyleen says:

    I feel the exact same way about books. Right now, I’m reading War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. I remember being so intimidated by it (nearly a thousand pages of size 9 font!) a couple years ago, but I’ve finally summoned up the courage to read it. I usually read entire books in one sitting (yeah, I’m one of those) but War and Peace is just a little too intense to read in one, two, or several sittings.

    A good book, tea, AND shortbread? Sounds like it was an awesome day.

  15. Shortbread! Coffee! Can you send me some? Pretty please!? 🙂

  16. I love reading too…I can totally get lost for hours doing it. I am now totally craving a book, these shortbread fingers and a cup of tea!

  17. I prefer shortbread and coffee, but I am with you on curling up with something hot, sweets and a good book. I LOVE to read and get mildly obsessed with every single book I read. How you went 7 months without a book I don’t know. Glad you found some great used bookstores!

  18. Oooh I <3 this! I identify with your reading conundrum entirely… books are a vital nutrient! A particular instance that stands out in my reading evangelism history 😉 was sophomore year in college when I took a class called "Foundations in Nonviolence" and toted "Being Peace" by Thich Nhat Hahn around with me everywhere… to enlighten angry thesis-writers in the library… to offer some prose to the lunch ladies in their discontented state of polyester… to philosophize over during whiskey night… and reading your story, I remembered living in a tiny town in the Abruzzo and forcing myself to read "the Bridges of Madison County" in Italian… as I couldn't find an English book anywhere! Ahh and thank you for this recipe! I recently attempted a "perfect Scottish shortbread" recipe (enhanced only by a mere two tiny discreet personal additions–cardamom and espresso) They promised to be "crumbly" and there were readers getting angry that the recipe was printed on the internet as the "great Scottish secret" of a giant ratio of cornstarch had been shared… well, they were impossible to slice w/out crumbling the entire pan… I ended up making a tart crust w. them… (it seems that every single time I actually follow a recipe it ends badly…) but I shall try this one! Thank you kale!!

  19. I love shortbread…and books. I used to hide under my desk with a flashlight and read when I was supposed to be in bed sleeping. I get way too caught up in books, too. Love this post!

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