Shortbread for Firefighters

28 Jan 2013

While the world looked on at the soaring temperatures and bushfires that hit Australia this January, countless communities across the country were coming together to provide support wherever they could. Slow Food Hobart members in Tasmania, one of the worst affected areas, rallied together with local cooks and producers to feed between 30 and 250 firefighters three meals a day – an essential behind the scenes job.

When Jo Cook, Slow Food Hobart committee member and chef received a call out of the blue to coordinate the kitchen, she wasted no time getting her mobile kitchen ready with food and personnel. She spoke to as many chefs and producers at a farmers’ market as she could, and offers for food and labor started coming in.

The budget at the beginning was AUD$25 a day per firefighter for three meals and drinks. “At that budget you could either have real food and no wages, or the cheapest quality food and pay somebody,” she said. “They are at their weakest. They have just worked a 12 or 15-hour shift; that’s when they need nutrition and really high-quality food.”

People donated their cheese, meat, fish, produce and time. One veteran firefighter said he had never been so well fed, and the man who hired Jo said he had never seen morale so high.

Mary McNeill, a Hobart member and pastry chef, made these shortbread biscuits and filled them with jam for a recharging sweet snack. “I use the recipe from Miss Irvine’s Central Cookery Book (a classic Tasmanian cookbook),” she said. “I like mine slightly more cooked, so I suggest allowing a little color to develop, but traditionally you would go for pale.”

500g butter
1 1/2 cups soft icing sugar
5 cups flour
1 jar of your favorite local or homemade jam

Cream butter and sugar.
Sift flour and mix till incorporated.
Tip onto work surface and knead slightly until dough comes together.
Roll out thinly (roll onto baking paper to make it easy to transfer to fridge).
Chill for 10 minutes or so to allow for easy cutting.
Cut out desired shapes and mark gently with a fork tip, and place on baking tray.
Bake at 160 ºC until biscuits are a pale cream color with slightly brown edges.

Allow to cool. Join pairs, filling them with your favorite jam.
Dust with icing sugar.
If you want shortbreads to remain crisp, fill them just before serving.

Source: article in Mercury Newspaper by Elaine Reeves.

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