Ginger shortbread for Christmas

Just as ginger is spicy and hot, I too, am a bit of a hot mess. Losing two absolutely beloved people in one year and all that comes with that, alongside some health issues; my blogging and writing mojo is sporadic at best. Frankly, my Cheergerm soul is weary, low and well, not so cheery as of late. As I tried to write this post, nine year old Kid 2 was beside me, wrapped in my doona; bouncing, rolling and banging his skinny bony knees into me. Asking me the same question over and over again. I snapped at him, then felt bad. He told me his new job ‘is messing up beds.’ This made me laugh. No chance of an idealised writing environment in my life, where is that solitary attic with a wooden desk that I once dreamed of?

Its been hard to get excited about Christmas, a season that usually provides much delight. Having children pushes me to make an effort. Writing the stripped back truth about your feelings can smack of self-pity and over-introspection. Whilst I am more than happy to read of others struggles, to write about my own leaves me feeling exposed and vulnerable. In the midst of it, I also know that things are so much worse for so many and that our children are healthy and happy. Rather than continue in this vein, here is a list of little joys I have collated from this past week.

The young kindergarten lass at the school Christmas concert on Friday night who raucously and joyfully sang ‘la la la’ shaking her head (much as a headbanger would at a Metallica concert).

Watching Kid 2 at the same concert, impersonating a kookaburra during a song with great abandon, all self-conscious anxiety placed aside for a moment.

Our twelve year old Kid 1 picking out small Christmas gifts for his kindy buddies, selflessly and of his own volition.

All the appreciative folk who view our street’s Christmas lights with gratitude and wonder.

The ongoing support of family and friends and the camaraderie I have found in this online blogging community.

The Scottish people, my ancestors, for creating that delicious biscuit called shortbread. Attributed to Mary Queen of Scots in the 16th Century, it was an expensive luxury for the ordinary folk. In Shetland, it was once traditional to break a piece of shortbread over the brides head as she crossed the threshold of her new home. (Not sure how I would have felt about buttery crumbs through my hair but this shows how special this biscuit was.)

My creation this year combines warm spices with small nuggets of ginger that add a chewy, toffee-like surprise. I used a brand that stated it was ‘un-crystallised bare ginger’ but it still has some cane sugar on it, so I am not quite sure what the difference is. (I imagine it contains less sugar.) There is nothing quite like giving something homemade as a gift. Pop your baked goodies in a vintage tin or wrap them in some pretty cellophane and finish off the parcel with a darling bauble. Another little joy to add to my growing list. Merry Christmas to you all.


250g butter
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 3/4 cups plain flour or gluten free plain flour
1/4 cup rice flour
2 1/2 tsps ginger powder
1/2 tsp mixed spice
30g bare uncrystallised ginger, finely chopped (if you can’t find this ‘naked’ stuff just use crystallised.)
Extra white sugar for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 170C and line 2 baking trays with baking paper Sift the flours and spices together into a bowl.
Cream the butter in a stand mixer then add the sugar gradually, beating until the mixture is light and fluffy then stir in the finely chopped ginger.
Work in the flour gradually until the mixture is just combined.
Knead the mixture lightly to bring together to a dough. (I do this in the bowl.)
Divide the dough in half, place onto a floured board and pat each into a square.
Using a rolling pin, roll each square into a 16cm by 16cm square, roughly 1cm to 1 1/2 cm thick. Gently lift the squares onto the prepared trays and cut each square into 12 rectangle fingers.
Prick the surface of the shortbread with a fork. (This helps in releasing moisture as it cooks, making the shortbread crisper.)
Sprinkle extra caster sugar over the shortbread.
Bake in the centre of the oven for ten minutes then reduce the temperature to 150C and cook for about 30 minutes to 40 minutes. It is ready when it is firmish to the touch in the centre and golden around the edges.
Remove from the oven and carefully run a sharp knife through the shortbread rectangles again to make it easier to break into fingers later.
Cool down on wire racks. Gently break the shapes apart.
Wrap up festively and give to your best people, and eat some, always eat some.

Cooking Notes: when making gluten free shortbread, keep in mind the mixture will be more fragile. You may want to shape it into a square rather than use a rolling pin particularly if you are baking on a hot day.

A Cheergerm adaptation from The Margaret Fulton Cookbook 2004 Revised and Updated Edition published by Jannie Brown and Suzanne Gibbs.

Click below for previous shortbread recipes.

Cardamom, cinnamon and brown sugar shortbread
Cranberry, chocolate, pistachio shortbread
Old school shortbread
Gluten free shortbread

26 thoughts on “Ginger shortbread for Christmas

  1. Sorry to hear that you’ve been struggling with your cheery spirit this season, Lisa. As writers, and especially bloggers, I think we all walk the line of how much truth to put in. I always enjoy how you capture your inner angst and wrap it up all so sweetly in your recipe tales. I also love the hot sweetness of ginger so these shortbread are on my list. Happy days to you! xx

    • Thanks Mel, for those thoughtful and kind words. You have expressed it so well, a fine line indeed. This is really nice with the mix of ground ginger and the uncrystallised ginger. Merry Christmas to you and yours. Xx

  2. I’d like to send you a nice box of toasty, chewy, chocolatey, buttery hugs. Or perhaps biscuits would be better… Please don’t consider abandoning your blog, even temporarily, it’s one of my favourites, not just for the recipes but also for the writing and the lovely warmth of the family life you describe.

  3. We are MAD for candied ginger in our house and teaming it up with buttery shortbread is nothing short of magic.

    Cliche as it sounds, time is a balm, Lisa. And there is no shame in sharing your weariness. Sometimes saying it out loud helps with healing and acknowledging it is part of eventual resolution, don’t you think? It sounds like you’re doing the right things to take care of yourself, too. So take care and give yourself the gift of time.

    • Thanks for your kind words Suzanne, you are right, it may sound cliched but it is true. I know that it will never be ok they aren’t here but time will lessen the shock and disbelief. Also true, saying it out loud is cathartic if somewhat uncomfortable. The ginger and shortbread is pretty darned delicious together. Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas and a good start to the New Year.

  4. Aww, I’m sorry how difficult the end of 2016 is for you, it’s been rough on a lot of people.
    I happy though that you’re pushing through the sadness and vulnerability and coming to share that with us. We’re here for you whenever you need us. Just shout.
    Or headbang.

  5. Warm healing hugs Cheery, your constant positive attitude is an inspiration, especially to this grumpy old dame. Share some memories, shed a few tears, that’s a meaningful family Christmas xx

    • Oh thanks Sandra, what a lovely thing to say. I don’t think you are grumpy at all. Your energy and passion continually inspire me. Will do and I wish you and yours a happy festive season and a lovely start to 2017. X

  6. So sorry for your losses. It gets worse when you’re older and people start dying who are younger than you. So sad. But especially those premature and unexpected, and might I say, underserved deaths.

  7. You write so poignantly that it was impossible not to get a little choked up. The tributes to those little good things in life were wonderful – things we should reflect on more often. I wish I could have seen the little la la la girl and Kid2’s rendition of a kookaburra. A great way to lighten your heart and put a smile on your face. So glad you also included the people in Scotland on the list as shortbread is great any time of year, but most especially at Christmas. Keep thinking of those good things, Lisa.

    • Oh KW, that concert was well timed, nothing like watching joyous children to remind you of beauty and things that are completely unspoiled by grief and the way the world is sometimes. Viva la Shortbread and the Scots! Thanks for your encouraging words and have a beautiful Chrissy and start to 2017.

  8. I was waiting for your Christmas shortbread Lisa and this one is as lovely and original as many of the others. But I must tell you something else- I really love your writing. During some of those personal losses you experienced this year, you did write about them so profoundly, beautifully and without a hint of self indulgence. I read all your stories, happy and sad, and I love your quirky view on life too. Look after yourself and find that little private attic in your house, a little room of your own if you can. F xx

    • Oh Francesca, I am undone at your words. It has meant a lot to me to hear that. You are a constant source of inspiration to me, for your courage at expressing yourself and your views and for your beautiful and downright honest outlook on the world and all of us in it. Thanks. I will find that space one day, from reading Little Women as a young girl I always thought of an attic as being a special place to write. But right now it’s still hovering near 30 degrees at 11.00 so maybe a basement is a better idea? This shortbread is really good, those wee chunks of ginger make it a bit special. Hope your Chrissy is as chilled as you are hoping it to be. X

  9. Wishing you the healing balm of family, friends, and biscuits, and a New Year full of happy memories 🙂 The ginger bits are a brilliant idea. I’m interested in cardamom these days, so I’m going to check out your brown sugar recipe…

    • Ah, thanks LM, wishing you and yours a happy festive season and start to 2017 as well. We just want the year to finish. The ginger is a bit of a spicy treat but I do love that cardamom and brown sugar recipe too.

  10. I am sorry that this hasn`t been such a wonderful time for you Lisa. Losing loved ones is always hard but this time of year really makes the loss so heartfelt. Writing about your emotions isn`t self-pity, please don`t feel that way. I adore your writing style and your blog. And these ginger shortbread are so amazing that I am going to make up a batch today to give to my neighbours. I did not know that brides used to have these bickies crumbled over the heads – thankful we have moved on from that tradition. I hope your Christmas is peaceful and full of love and relaxation x

    • Thanks for your lovely encouraging words Mrs H. We will be glad to get to the end of the year. This shortbread is really yummy, hope its enjoyed! I too am glad that they have ceased the bikkie crumbling tradition! Lol. Have a wonderful Chrissy. X

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