Tuesday, May 8, 2012


This is my grandmother's shortbread recipe.  It's kind of a big deal for me to write this and put it out on the internet, but somehow I think she would approve.  My grandmother helped me to become the person I am today in countless ways-- many of which I am still realizing today.  One of the most significant things my grandmother did for me was to buy me books.  She bought me beautiful hardcover editions of Heidi, The Secret Garden, and Little Women, among others-- I read them over and over and over again.  I still have them and I'll be able to give them to my daughter in the next few years.  These books were my introduction to classic literature, to a subject that I love.  This has led me, in an indirect way, to teaching-- I want to share that same gift with my students.  Words and literature were always important to her and are to me as well-- so much so that there are pieces that I can't teach in class, because they remind me of her so forcibly that it's impossible for me to talk about them with my students without crying.  Dylan Thomas' s poem "Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night," for example-- "Rage, rage against the dying of the light"?  It's too much for me. 

One of the other things my grandmother did for me was teach me how to bake and make candy-- we can all see where that has led!  My grandmother was many things, but accomplished baker is definitely chief among them.  Her shortbread is pretty legendary in my family-- she would make it at Christmastime, and it's become a holiday staple.  I started making it two years ago, mostly for my father.  Grandma Betty's shortbread is pretty traditional-- it's buttery, crumbly, and not terribly sweet.  It gets most of its sweetness from the chocolate on top.  It is amazing with coffee.  I'm sure you could do all kinds of interesting things with this base recipe-- different flavors, adding nuts, or playing with different toppings-- but I can't bring myself to do it.  To me, this recipe is pretty sacred.  :) 

Grandma Betty's Shortbread

2 cups sifted flour (NOTE: Do not pack the flour-- measure it after sifting it.)
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup of soft butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 large Hershey's bar (the kind in the foil inner wrapper)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  This will be the second sifting of the flour-- I was told by my mother, who was told by my grandmother, that this sifting is one of the most important parts-- so don't skimp on the second sift!

In a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, mix butter and sugar until very fluffy.  Mix the dry ingredients into the butter/sugar.

Refrigerate the dough until easy to handle-- just a few minutes in the refrigerator should do the trick.  Pat the dough evenly into the bottom of a 9x9x2 pan. 

Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, or until shortbread is barely golden on the edges.  Cut it into shapes while still warm.  Let shortbread cool.

Melt the chocolate bar in a heat-proof bowl in the microwave-- stir until smooth and glossy.  Spread the melted chocolate over the cooled shortbread.

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