This year was our second Christmas after my mother's death and just before Christmas I suddenly thought it would be nice to cook the shortbread she had always made and give some to my siblings.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas every year my mother's kitchen was always a frenzy as she churned out Christmas cakes, mince tarts and shortbread for the three of us and our workplaces and friends and relatives.
I was using her recipe which she had written down years ago when she had an old gas oven with no thermostat and her recipe didn't include many details such as how long the shortbread needed to be cooked. The critical things were the ingredients as she knew exactly what she was doing and how long it would take.
I had made the recipe before, both with my mother and also by myself, but as I pondered how to write out enough details for someone else to understand the recipe so that I could blog it, I also fell to wondering if, as I thought I remembered, it had been her mother's recipe. I certainly remembered eating my grandmother's version of the shortbread. Or it had been passed from even further back in the family?
Who would know? There was really only one place I could look. I have in my possession part of a hand-written recipe book that belonged to my grandmother's aunt, Lucy Agnes Collie. Would she have cooked shortbread using the same recipe and, more importantly, would it be in the part of her recipe book that survived?
Indeed the recipe was in Auntie Luce's recipe book and giving more detail than my mother's recipe did. But the interesting thing about the recipe was the name: "Vera's Shortbread". So it had not come down from generations ago but was a recipe from a generation after Auntie Luce from her niece Vera. Vera Hall was my maternal grandmother's sister. I am sure that my grandmother had also cooked this same shortbread as I remember having it. But she must have got it from her sister. So it was a recipe shared around the family at that time and like many others handwritten out in their recipe books.
I am sure the story is mainly of interest to the family, but I made a couple of batches of shortbread and how to make it came back to me once I started! I enjoyed making it and exploring its origins. You too can make "Vera's Shortbread" if you wish.
4 oz caster sugar
4 oz caster sugar
8 oz butter
14 oz plain flour
Pre-heat oven to 150c
Cream the sugar and butter
Fold in the flour gradually
Butter baking tray
Turn out mixture onto floured surface
Roll like a roly-poly
Cut slices about 1/2 inches
Place leaving space between on the buttered tray
Press fork into surface to decorate
Cook in oven until just starting to change colour (15-20 minutes)
They should still be soft but will harden while cooling
Remove from oven and place to cool on wire racks