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My Grandmother’s Shortbread – A Favorite Recipe

It’s funny how our “favorite things” list evolves over the years – new ones are added and some are removed.  My grandmother’s shortbread has always been on my list.  I associate it with visits to my grandparents, who were Scottish immigrants, living in a modest little house just off Solano Avenue in Berkeley, CA, where they raised four children and which they called home for over fifty years.  The shortbread recipe was from “the old country.”  As a child, the first thing I did when we arrived at their house was sneak into the kitchen and check the glass container on top of the counter to see if there was shortbread.

Teatime with homemade shortbread - how civilized.

I was thirteen when my grandmother died, but her shortbread lives on! I remember making it once when I was a college student (probably to procrastinate studying), and I used margarine instead of butter (it was cheaper). When I told my mother about using margarine, she muttered something about my grandmother rolling over in her grave.  My grandmother’s name was Helen Bell Hamilton (born 1887 in Scotland). I don’t think she’d mind if I shared her recipe with you. It’s so simple to make and quite delicious – perfect for tucking into a decorative tin at holiday time. And the way the house smells when it’s baking – heavenly! Here’s the recipe:

  1. 2 cubes butter (softened)

  2. 3/4 cup sugar

  3. 1/4 cup cornstarch

  4. 2 1/2 cups flour

Cream butter and sugar together. Add cornstarch and flour. Pat firmly into 9” square pan and prick with fork. Bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour or until it just starts to turn golden. Cut into squares while it’s still warm.


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