I’m not sure how a Jewish woman from Ukraine became expert in making Scottish Shortbread in New York, but my grandmother was an unusual woman capable of all sorts of extraordinary things. To me this shortbread is an example of her willingness to embrace the foods of her adopted country. My paternal grandmother loved to cook a wide range of foods, most of which she had never heard of until she came to the U.S. She was an avid reader of the New York Times, especially the Food Section. When my grandmother died in 1968 she had instilled in my father a love for cooking and an enthusiasm for culinary experimentation. She also left us a treasure trove of recipes. This is one. The recipe is dated 1958 in her handwriting.
- 2 lbs. flour (sifted before weighing)
- 1 lb. sweet butter
- ½ lb. sugar
- 12-oz bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate (optional)
Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
Let butter sit out briefly, but do not let it get too soft. Mix the flour and sugar together in a large mixing bowl with a whisk. Cut the butter into the flour and sugar mixture with a hand pastry blender until it is well mixed and crumbly and particles begin to clump together. This is no easy task and takes a considerable amount of upper body strength combined with patience and a glass of chardonnay. It takes a good 15 minutes to get to the crumbly stage, longer if you’ve had more than one glass of wine.
Pat the mixture into a half-size sheet pan (a sheet pan is a cookie sheet with low sides and a half-size sheet pan refers to one that is 18×13) until the mixture is packed, but not too firmly. My grandmother’s notes say to, “Prick with a fork for a nice pattern.” I tried my best to do this – and completely failed. My cookies still looked great but they were completely devoid of nicely patterned prick marks. I hope you have better luck.
Bake for 60-70 minutes. Mine did not brown in that length of time – they were cooked through and nicely crisp once they cooled. Cut them into squares or rectangles while still warm. Cool on waxed paper. Store in a container with tight fitting lid.
If you decide you want chocolate dipped shortbread (it should be noted that I’d dip my children in chocolate if it was socially acceptable) line a baking sheet with clean parchment or wax paper. In a double boiler melt 12-oz of best quality bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate (whatever you prefer). Stir constantly until melted and smooth. Remove from heat. Dip each cookie halfway into chocolate, let excess drip off, and place the dipped cookies on the baking sheet. Let them stand until the chocolate is set, or you can stand it no longer, about 2 hours. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. These cookies are totally gorgeous and would make great holiday gifts if I were willing to part with any.