The neatly prescribed name and address on the dilapidated envelope screamed formality… but belied the hysteria from which it sprang. It was as if Miss Havisham reached beyond Satis House in some strange way and invaded his orderly life via the mail slot in the door. William pinched the corner of the envelope between his index finger and his thumb and held it as arms length and transported it into the study and plopped it down on the desk in front of Fredrick.
Without even looking up from his papers, Frederick said in a completely droll voice…
“Is that a dangerous viper in the shape of a correspondence?”
“Might as well be.”
“Well, that IS a bit dramatic, even from you.”
“You realize of course that she is stark raving mad and we go there every year and all pretend she’s not, and we eat food that is made with who knows what insidious ingredients…”
“…and then you rush out to all your friends and gossip about THE fabulously eccentric Miss Havisham and how many fuzzy strawberries are left on her table and if the wedding cake has fallen over yet and you speculate on exactly where her other shoe is.”
“Yes, well, guilty.”
“…and didn’t you offer to marry her last year?”
“Again, yes. Well, I only did that because as her groom I assume I would be allowed upstairs. I could find her missing shoe. Maybe buy her a new wedding dress. The one she wears is 20 years out of date.”
“You are a horrible person and we are going so get your mind wrapped around it…”
“OK, but I’m not eating any of her weird food this time…”
“…Fine. I won’t insist she move away from that fireplace. Last year she set a bit of her lace on fire but who am I to tell her not to get too close to FIRE?”
Who knew Miss Havisham loved VD
I always ask the hard-to-answer questions like:
“Why is there a ‘D’ in ‘fridge’ but no ‘D’ in ‘refrigerator’?”
“Does a straw have 2 holes or one really long hole?”
“What would Valentine’s Day be like with Miss Havisham from Great Expectations?”
You might think that Scrooge was my favorite Charles Dickens character… Scrooge gets all the limelight but he’s a fairly uncomplicated character. He’s Scrooge-y… You know. Scrooges be Scrooging. Scrooge isn’t very interesting to me.
Give me a Miss Havisham any day of the week. Talk about a sick ticket!
I’m assuming you know her. Even if you don’t have the patience for Dickens and his ham-fisted messages of “everyone is redeemable”, you should at least have a passing understanding of the character of Miss Havisham.
Here is a nutshell view of a “CliffNotes” version of Miss Havisham. She was a rich lady. She got engaged to a shady dude named Compeyson (…NEVER TRUST ANYONE NAMED COMPEYSON). All Miss Havishams friends were like “Oh hey, he’s bad…”and she was like “STFU. I LURVE HIM.”
On their wedding day, at 8:40 AM, as the wedding breakfast was being laid out, and the finishing touches were being added to her wedding cake, as she was getting dressed she received word that Compeyson and her half- brother stole most of her money and ran off (possibly to be together. HIS NAME WAS COMPEYSON after all.) As she stood there in her wedding dress, one shoe on, realizing she just got screwed over… she went bit crazy. From that day forward she only wore the wedding dress and one shoe. She stopped the clocks at 8:40 AM and she wouldn’t let any of her staff clean any of the food or wedding cake from the table.
After a few years her lawyer decided she should adopt a kid. You know, maybe that would snap her back into sanity. (RIGHT??? Oh, hey crazy lady, here’s a kid to totally help you get all better. Where exactly was Child Protective Services?) Miss Havisham weaponizes her adopted daughter to be a heartbreaker to get even with men for the pain she felt.
Now, if you thought this was a blog about FOOD… well it is!
Can you imagine how awkward a Valentine’s Day Party would be with Miss Havisham?
These are the twisted things I think about!
(Next up: Groundhog Day on The Island of Dr. Moreau… “No, no, leave that one behind. It’s too bitey!”)
What would Miss Havisham serve?
… you know, besides moldy wedding cake and furry strawberries?
When I asked myself this question for some reason Shortbread with Pink Peppercorns came to mind.
I mean, Shortbread is freaking delicious! Who doesn’t like Shortbread? Real Shortbread… Traditional Scottish Shortbread!
Pink Peppercorns are sorta peppery, sorta chili, and kinda floral and fruity. Makes sense because they are spicy berries… like Miss Havisham. (I was sorta shooting for a “sorta fruity with a slow burn at the finish” joke but I thought it might be sorta morbid. If you’ve read the book you know what I’m talking about. Don’t you? … and you are laughing. Sicko.)
The over-arching theme of a delicious Shortbread is all about keeping it cold, but warm enough to make a dough, but cold enough to keep the fat particles from melting into the flour too much… it’s complicated. The best way to make Shortbread is by hand.
…did I lose everyone?
Look, I tried to figure out some way to save the work… but it’s just not the same.
Food Processor is fast, and keeps things nice and cold. Stand Mixer does too.
Flavor isn’t there.
Get a fork, put on some music, mix it by hand.
The key ingredient to this recipe is
love good butter. (Kind of the same thing though…) Spend a few extra dollars and get a good brand. A good brand from Ireland. Butter is the only flavor in the Shortbread so don’t short your Shortbread.
Cream your butter. Technically, you could use the mixer for this part. I did. I put the bowl and beater into the freezer.
I feel your judging eyes on my fish sticks.
I’m sad to report they neither taste like nachos nor do they taste like fish sticks… so I guess they are the perfect food for someone who doesn’t like nachos or fish sticks. What can I say? I’m adventurous with foods.
The Cheeto Mac and Cheese snacks are heavenly, btw.
Add the sugar to the creamed butter and mix that in real good.
Take the bowl off your mixer, and add your slightly salted flour into the butter one tablespoon at a time.
Still with me?
Mix that one tablespoon in completely between tablespoons. No shortcuts!
Once you’ve added about half the flour you can turn the dough out onto a clean work space and start kneading and keep adding flour one tablespoon at a time. Here’s the critical part. Don’t let it get too warm. The goal is to knead it for 10 minutes.
I know! There are only a few things that people enjoy doing for 10 minutes, and kneading Shortbread probably isn’t one of them. (… unless Shortbread is a nickname for someone you love.)
THIS IS A VALENTINE’S DAY RECIPE! I’M ALLOWED A FEW CHEESY JOKES!
Get the rest of the flour in there, get it kneaded good, while keeping it all cold.
Don’t forget the Pink Peppercorns. Crush them up into small bits, or coarse grind them in a grinder. Start with 3/4th of a teaspoon to start with. It’s not obtrusive and overpowering, but you will know it’s there. Coarse grind a bit more for decorating the tops of the cookies.
Roll out the Shortbread, or rather, hand pat out the Shortbread. It’s going to be very crumbly. Very very crumbly. That’s good! It’s what you want! Shoot for a smidge thinner than 1/2’ thick. I know that sounds insanely thick but Shortbread flavor will change if it gets too thin.
If yours doesn’t look exactly like this, clearly you messed up somewhere.
How your Shortbread looks will change according to how warm it got, how long you knead it, and fat content of your butter. It even changes with “grass-fed” cows versus “spaghetti-fed” cows. (Ha, just seeing if you are still reading.)
There are 40 bamilzion ways to pat out your Shortbread.
Seriously though, google it. The traditional way is to pat it into a circle and create petticoats and lines and designs with fork tines… Some recipes you can use cutters to cut shaped cookies. This traditional recipe is way too crumbly for that…
I found a way.
Get ya a plunger cutter! Dust it with some flour or sugar, cut into the dough, plunge the design to compact it, lift up, move the cookie to the cookie sheet. All mine stuck to the plunger and we’re able to be coaxed off the plunger in one piece exactly where I wanted them to bake.
Bake in your oven for 25 to 45 minutes, depending on size of cookies and how dark you like them. Smaller the cookie, the quicker the bake. Start looking at them at 25 minutes. You want them brown but not too brown, but brown enough. Got it?
I like mine pretty brown but I’ve been baking this recipe all my life, and know the exact color I like it.
As soon as they come out of the oven sprinkle some sugar on them. I found that the sugar will settle into the designs pressed into the cookie and you can gently brush the rest away to make them look fun and finished.
You can also dip them in chocolate and sprinkle more pink peppercorn onto the wet chocolate.
I bought some fun Halloween push molds last year and I never got to use them, so I thought it would be fun to use Fondant on Shortbread.
…and of COURSE Miss Havisham would be reading Titus Andronicus!
OoOoOoOo… now I’m wondering what “Cooking with Titus Andronicus” would be like.
…if you know, you know.
Please! Please! Please!
If you make this, let me know!
I’d love to hear from all of you what you think of my mad ramblings.
…it just eggs me on.