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Entries in heirloom recipe (2)


Somebunny loves my nana's shortbread!

One of the loveliest things to happen to this writer and blogger happened to me recently. More than one reader has found my Scottish nana's shortbread, an heirloom recipe, online and reached out to let me know they tried it, the latest from Bunny Wright of Oshawa, Ontario, Canada.

Sidebar: I had NO idea where Oshawa was. Thank heavens for the Internet. Oshawa borders Lake OntarioLook for the star on the map. Apparently it has a population of 152,000--no tiny town of two-thousand, that Oshawa.

Bunny clicked through to my "Contact Me" page and sent this note:

I was looking for a good Scottish shortbread recipe to make for our church bazaar and I came upon yours. I want to use a shortbread mold (round with a thistle print). Your mentioning of your grandmother certainly hit home with me. I had a Nana as well (MacKenzie) and she sounded exactly like yours!

She then went on to say,

My dad still makes shortbread and each family still gets a round for Christmas. Hale and hearty, he will be 92 in November.

My family makes shortbread at Christmas, too. I suppose it's too rich to eat (must be made with 1 pound of pure butter!) on any old day for any old reason.

She went to ask me whether she thought the recipe would do well in a mold. Because its so rich with butter, it packs or presses down into dishes and molds easily, so I said I thought it would work. I have used Nana's recipe in my own thistle mold successfully.

Lo and behold, just a week later, she wrote back.

The shortbread has turned out perfectly! Thanks for a great recipe. I haven’t made shortbread since my (other Irish) grandmother told me it tasted like bubble gum! LOL I’ll enclose a photo.

And she enclosed this photograph. Doesn't her shortbread look perfect?  Every edge is perfectly shaped. Color is ideal. I can almost taste its buttery goodness just staring at the photo.

Bunny, thank you so much for reaching out to me and sharing your shortbread. Both our grandmothers were Glaswegians, and Bunny can imitate hers, too, (though her accent might be a darn sight better than mine.)

I'd also gotten a lovely note in August from a reader named Sandra who said, "You touched me with your recipe and little background story."

My heirloom shortbread recipe gets more hits than any other single post on my blog. Thanks to the Internet, I  can share Nana's recipe with the whole world, and that is a great feeling.

If Nana were alive, I know she'd be pleased to see how many people have not only stopped by for her recipe but have reached out to her granddaughter and went out of their way to thank her for sharing it.

(And there wasn't much that pleased her, believe me. So, I musta done good.)



Nana's authentic Scottish shortbread - an heirloom recipe

My mother's mother, whom we called "Nana," came to New York City from Scotland in the early part of the last century. Because she had such a dominant personality and a thick Scottish accent, I remember her much more clearly than my father's mother.

Nana had little nicknames for all of my siblings and me: Brian-me-boy (which she pronounced "buy"), Red Feather (for my sister Heather), I was Gale Girl (which I use as a screen name today), and Rossi Bairn for my brother Ross. We thought she was saying Rossi Bear and still refer to my brother Ross as "Rossi Bear" today because we were just silly American kids. 

While I was growing up, she came to visit our farm in Berks County regularly even though she and my father fought a lot. Because of the delectables and recipes she shared, sometimes it seemed we were like a little Scottish outpost situated in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country.

Many of my memories of her revolve around food and tartan dresses. (Always tartan, never plaid, mind you. And let's not even get started about how most people mispronounce "Auld Lang Syne" by saying Syne as though it begins with a "Z".)

Nana's shortbread never looked fancy but it's the best I've ever tasted.In my previous post, I mentioned having received some heirloom recipes from my Scottish nana. So without further adieu, here is the recipe for my favorite treat Nana used to make--Scottish shortbread.

This recipe is the best in the world. Forget all those chi-chi shortbreads with rosemary, rosewater, and god-knows-what adulteration. This is the BEST recipe for authentic shortbread you'll ever find, and oh, so simple.

You can sort of hear my nana's personality in her recipe--she was a bossy one, that's for sure.  

My mother handwrote this recipe and gave it to me during my wedding shower in 1985:

Nana's Scottish Shortbread

1 lb. butter (no oleo)
1 full cup sugar
Cream butter and sugar. Then add 3 and 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 cup at a time.

Mix well and knead thoroughly. Add more flour if needed. The more you knead, the tastier the shortbread will be.

Pat the dough into a round, square, or oblong pan (don't roll it or grease the pan; the dough is rich enough). Prick with a fork all the through, top to bottom,  in a design if you can.

If you like thicker shortbread, use an 8 x 8--just watch that the bottom doesn't brown. If you like it a little thinner, an 11 x 7.5 x 1.5 (deep) is ideal. 

Bake in 300 degree (very slow) oven for 45-60 minutes. Don't let shortbread get brown on top. 

Happy baking!

* * * 

And of course, no post about Scottish food would be complete without invoking Rabbie Burns' famous blessing:

Some hae meat

by Robert Burns

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thanit.

(And the fact that I posted this the day before St. Patrick's Day would make my nana even happier. If you're not sure why that is, then you've never grown up with Scottish people.)