Shortbread simply sings of the South

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 13, 2001

Here in the South food seems to be tied up to everything we do. From celebrating to consoling, from births to deaths, we Southerners believe in the power of food. And what could be more southern then shortening bread or shortbread as the rest of the world calls it?

My first memory of shortbread is a Southern rhyme sung to hundred of little toddlers every year &uot;Mama’s little baby loves, shortenin’, shortenin’; Mama’s little baby loves shortenin’ bread.&uot; The most delicious memory I have of shortbread is the first time someone introduced me to Walker’s Shortbread. Mmmm … pure heaven. Crisp, buttery and delicious.

We use the term short in baking, and it refers to a non-yeast pastry or cookie dough that contains a high ratio of fat to flour. The results are baked goods that are tender, rich, crumbly and crisp. But not all shortbreads are sweet. Perfect shortbread cookies usually have a sprinkling of sugar on them, while shortbread biscuits for a summer strawberry shortcake are dependent on the ripe sweet berries and their juice for sweetness

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And recently I found a recipe for a savory shortbread, made with Parmesan cheese and rosemary. I think these crisps will be perfect with a summery tomato basil soup or a light chicken salad. Give them a try, and let me know what you think.

Parmesan Rosemary Shortbread

1 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly soft, cut into chunks

1/2 cup flour

2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary or 3/4 teaspoon dried

1/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped

1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix Parmesan and butter in a food processor until mixture resembles coarse crumbs, being careful not to overmix. You can do this by hand with a pastry blender also.

Add flour, rosemary, walnuts pepper and salt. Process just until the ingredients hold together.

Remove dough from bowl. Divide dough into two equal halves. On a lightly floured surface, roll each half into a circle about 7-inches round and 1/8-inch thick. Cut into eight wedges. Transfer wedges to a cookie sheet. Bake until golden around edges, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from cookie sheet and cool on wire rack. You can store them in a covered container for up to one week or freeze for up to two weeks.

Of course if you would rather stick with something sweet here’s a recipe I have been using for years. I got it from one of my oldest and favorite cookbooks, &uot;Southern Sideboards.&uot;


1 pound butter, softened (do not substitute margarine)

1 1/4 sugar

6 cups flour

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Cream the butter and flour until fluffy. Press into an ungreased 9 x 15-inch jellyroll pan.

Use a rolling pin or smooth glass to flatten the dough, spreading evenly. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, do not let the dough brown. Cut into squares, fingers, diamonds, or circles while hot, but do not remove from pan until cool.

Christina Hall writes a weekly food column for The Democrat. She can be reached at