2023 Holiday cookie disaster

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    John Kelly

      Katherine, thanks for your reply. I would have watched the videos if I had known they were there. I did watch the two videos that the formula mentions, both about crushing the peppermints. The CL website video page has links to plenty of videos, but none about the 2023 holiday cookie. There’s probably an email that mentions them that I haven’t read or have forgotten.

      I don’t think the knife is the issue — it’s a stainless-steel chef’s knife with a 7-5/8″ blade. Longer would be better, but it should be adequate. I see from watching the videos that your technique was a little different from mine: you laid the entire edge along the surface of the shortbread, while I tended to start nearer the tip, in the curved part of the edge, and then press down, rotating the rest of the blade into the shortbread — more slicing than chopping. I think the longer and straighter the edge meeting the shortbread, the less chance of off-course fractures (my fractures went about 120 degrees from the cut line).

      Beyond that, I probably overmixed the dough. I rarely make crusts or shortbread, and I couldn’t seem to get it right with either the pastry blender or the food processor. It was certainly finer-grained than the dough that went into the pan in your video.

      Katherine Kehrli


        Well that does sound so very frustrating. I’m sorry to hear. This experience doesn’t seem to be “shared” meaning I’ve heard from many and I’ve completed 6 batches myself and not once had any issues with a good chef’s knife. I hope bakers out in Community Loaves land will provide some additional thoughts based on their experiences.

        Did you have a chance to watch any of the videos? Especially the cutting and packaging? Here is the link: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLQ5ctJb8MGV2eJHTQ0mtRpmHawXLdASgM&si=CRm1hlmMErj2E2IL  Video link.

        And then to the cutting itself there are two different videos. One with Anna Fine and myself and then another I did separately to reinforce no ruler was needed. But a chef’s knife worked great for both of us. Here is the link to just that video. https://youtu.be/wYO06T_KEHM?si=9nZs2vF3M_GCnqYV.  Video Link

        Please let me know more about the differences between our two experiences. It certainly would be easy to add notes to the recipe, but I’d like to know first, if there are any additional differences in our approaches.

        Thank you John for your ongoing dedication.

        John Kelly

          OK, it’s late and I’m tired and frustrated, and have just sworn an oath never to bake another cookie as long as I live.

          I made the 2023 holiday cookie according to the recipe, which says:

          Cool thoroughly before lifting parchment out of the pan and slicing cookie with sharp chef knife into 1 ½
          inch squares. Note: You can chill the pan in the refrigerator for 30-45 minutes for an optimal consistency
          for clean slicing.

          I did that — maybe too much? I let the mass stand for about 4 hours after it came out of the oven, then took it out of the pan (still on the parchment) and chilled it in the refrigerator for about an hour.

          When I tried to cut it into squares with a chef’s knife. I got so many fractures running off on diagonals I could only make about 42 squares — for a loose definition of “square” — along with a cup and a half of useless crumbs.  No one’s going to mind, I think, if the “squares” are irregular in size and shape, and in a few cases not even four-sided — but I’m not going to insult anyone by giving them a box of 8 cookies on a bed of crumbs.

          The thing is, it acted exactly as you would expect shortbread to act. It’s supposed to be crispy. You can’t slice it like a pan of brownies. You might as well try slicing a tortilla chip.

          Should the formula be revised? Would it be better to cut it up within a certain time after baking?

          It seemed to me a serrated knife worked better than the chef’s knife, but I only tried it on the last 8 or so, so by then I’d got a better feel for the material and that’s too small a sample set anyway.

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