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Jessica’s Garden: Everything is Better with Homemade Butter

Baking Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies
Baking Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

Feeling fully entrenched in the holiday spirit, it was only appropriate that we began baking our Christmas cookies. We have a few die-hard family cookie traditions and then there are a couple new experimental additions each year. My mother’s family is English and my father’s family is Norwegian. We make mince pies for my mother’s side, Krumkaker for my father’s and chocolate chip cookies just because.

Grandma's Scotch Shortbread-made-with-Homemade-Butter
Grandma’s Scotch Shortbread made with Homemade Butter

I have also in recent years taken to making my grandmother’s Scotch Shortbread. It’s a classic recipe for a crumbly, buttery and decadent bar. My grandmother does not cook often anymore, so I enjoy baking her old recipes that are nostalgic for her. I usually also send her home with a small tin for personal consumption. Scotch Shortbread is an extremely simple recipe that is also great for including children, as it requires getting your hands a little dirty.

Scotch Shortbread

1 Lb. Butter
4C All Purpose Flour
1 C White Sugar

Bring butter to room temperature. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. With hands, knead and mix all ingredients together until equally incorporated. Evenly press into 9×13 baking pan. Bake for 50 minutes until golden brown. Let cool about 10 minutes and slice into 1”x2” bars. With a toothpick, poke three holes in each bar for aesthetics.

There’s something essential about using your hands to make the recipe work. I’m a firm believer that the recipe requires the heat of your hands to incorporate the ingredients smoothly without over-working the flour. And most children would love an excuse to get grubby baking.

Fresh Homemade Butter

I proudly conquered homemade butter this week. I’ve been reading over and over that it’s so easy to make and have been determined to give it a shot. And the rumors were true. All it takes is a carton of full-fat heavy whipping cream and a mixer with a whisk attachment. The whole process was painless and satisfying. I can’t see why at this point I’d purchase store-bought butter at such outrageous prices ever again. Especially since you can make large batches and freeze any surplus.

Homemade Butter

Pour 1 carton of heavy whipping cream into mixer with whisk attachment in place. Beat for about ten minutes until cream separates. Pour contents through a sieve lined with cheesecloth. Gently squeeze contents of cheesecloth to remove all whey. Store in plastic wrap in refrigerator. Whey can be stored and reserved for a variety of other culinary purposes.

Fresh Butter Straining

With a small scale, I measured the butter into 4 ounce (1 stick) rounds and wrapped in plastic wrap so they were already measured and ready for holiday baking. I had on hand, a carton and a half of cream which yielded exactly a pound of butter. This must have been destiny, as that’s just what I needed to make my grandmother’s shortbread. So homemade butter in hand, I got to baking the most rewarding batch of scotch shortbread I’ve made yet.

Grayson and I also made two new cookies this year based on what we had available in the pantry. I had a peek and for some unknown reason, we had not one, but three, canisters of rolled oats. So clearly, some kind of oatmeal cookie was in store.

We settled on Oatmeal Peanut Butter cookies as peanut butter is my little sous chef’s favorite. I also purchased some organic shaved coconut that needed using up so we made lemon coconut cookies which turned out absolutely melt-in-your-mouth delicious. It’s no wonder people gain ten pounds between Thanksgiving and New Years. But I think we can all agree, it’s worth it.

Posted By: Jessica J. Crawford Behnkes Garden Blogger

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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