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Entries in Scottish shortbread (2)

Thursday
Dec262013

More shortbread bakers worldwide!

My original posting of my nana's shortbread recipe has prompted more readers worldwide (besides Bunny of Oshawa) to reach out and share family shortbread stories and some charming photos.

Anne's shortbread fingers were headed to school for Heritage Day

This November, Scottish-born Anne McKechan Propst wrote to say her son who is 9 and is taking shortbread fingers in to his class for his Scottish ancestry presentation.

Like my grandmother, Anne's mother was a Glaswegian too. Her brother lives in Largs which is about an hour from Glasgow. Her family grew up in Ayrshire. She said my Nana would know it (ardrossan) because all the Glaswegians would go there in the summer for the beautiful beaches.

Her cousin has a beautiful Bed and breakfast in Largs. Anne said that if I haven't been there, I would love it:

 

You could certainly relax and 'write' from there (lol)." 
I certainly could. It does appear to be the perfect writer's retreat, doesn't it?

 

Appin Bed & Breakfast,172 Greenock Road, LargsCertainly does look like a charming place to visit (and write!) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Very shortly before Christmas, I received another lovely email message from Robb Powell of Calgary who thanked me for posting my nana's recipe. He lost his mother in July of 2012, and she kept all her recipes in her head. Robb wrote,

[My mother] hailed from the MacKinnon Clan and made the best shortbread in the world. I often made it with her as a kid, but was not able to keep the recipe in my head as neatly as Mom, haha.

She was fairly ill her last few years and the shortbread recipe was a lower priority on my list, although the craving has always visited itself upon me each and every Christmas.

Your Nana's recipe is exactly the recipe as I remember it now, I will know for sure when I taste it. Thank you for posting it. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and I can not wait to make up a batch!

We fancied our shortbread up with sliced red and green maraschino cherries, which I will do on the batch tomorrow. I remember my Mom's steadfastness on the importance of creaming the butter and sugar very well, as well as the kneading and slow addition of the flour to the mix. So I will pay special attention to those notes...while visions of the final product dance in my head!

Then Robb sent these photos. Look how he's arranged the cherries on top so each pan looks like a Christmas tree.

shortbread "trees" before bakingRobbie's shortbread baked

 

 

 

 

 

 

I received another note from Colleen who said,

"Thanks for posting your Nana's Shortbread recipe.I made it today for the holidays, and a family Christmas at my sister's. And I'm sure it will be a hit, (had a taste test). I'm going to have to hide them from me!!"

And a cheery note from Fiona, a visitor from Australia, who talked about her granny born of two Scots:

She always made the shortbread to give at Christmas but we were never allowed to break it to eat until midnight - for Homany (the new year). On her passing, the tradition and role of baker jumped my mother and passed directly to me at the age of 16. 

Sometimes Fiona replaces granulated sugar with 10x sugar for a finer texture. She also said her recipe includes ground rice and that she makes her shortbread into rounds.

Keep those photos and notes coming. Whenever I hear from blog readers, it makes the the world seem a cozier, warmer place.

Saturday
Mar162013

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.)