Christmas Shortbread


Nonna Margherita Dottorelli in her kitchen in 1905

Nonna Margherita Dottorelli in her kitchen, 1905

Some excellent Tuscan recipes from her granddaughter Marta, who refuses to be just a character in a novel made up by that writer

“Shortbread” with Zucchero di Canna

…And because we are near to Christmas, when forgiveness should fill all our hearts – today I will not say one word about that woman – that “writer” – who put me in her novel and thinks I will now keep quiet.

Maybe she will tell you that “short bread” is not an Italian recipe.
       I have tasted biscotti of that name, which the English buy, in “tartan” packages. I must tell you that here in Tuscany we make biscotti similar but much better. I will give you now my recipe, which was passed down to me from my husband’s grandmother, Nonna Margherita, (whose picture you will see at the top of the page).

red & green tartan

Nonna Margherita’s Biscotti di Pasta Frolla

— Butter – one pound – made a little soft
— One soup-spoon of the herb “Rosemary” which you will have chopped very very fine.
— Zucchero di Canna (this is what you call “brown sugar”) – 1 cup
— Flour – 3 3/4 cups (and keep a little extra for kneading)

Your oven will need to be “low medium” – perhaps 275 degrees fahrenheit.

With a big spoon mix together the butter and the “Rosemary” very well, to let the flavor seep in.
       Blend in the sugar now, and mix and mix.
       Add the flour and mix again, very smooth.
       Put this on your wooden table and knead as if you were making bread, for at least five minutes.
Make the dough into an oblong
       Take your large baking sheet and press the dough out with your flat hands until the pan is covered. The dough should be about ½ thick, but do not worry if it is more.
Take a knife and cut right through the dough to make lines one way, then cut across the other way, to guide how when it is baked you will cut into strips that are about 3 inches long and one inch wide.

Christmas Shortbread - paper with design for cutting shortbread.

Do not worry if these are not all the same. The small ones will be good for testing (see below) and if you have small children in the house they will do this job for you with much joy.
       Take a fork and make little puncture marks across each strip.
       Bake for one hour. But keep an eye on this. If you are wondering, pull out the pan, cut away one strip, test it. It should be a little crisp but not very. It should be a nice light brown.