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Shortbread Origins

Like many traditional desserts, shortbread has been with us for centuries. Ancient records trace this simply prepared, yet rich and satisfying sweet cookie as far back as Medeival and Elizabethan Times.

The name "shortbread" comes from shortening, the primary ingredient in this dessert that was once reserved for Christmas but is now enjoyed on any and every occasion. In all likelihood, an early version of shortbread was first prepared by the lower class European dairy farmers of ancient times, who made butter a part of their daily consumption long before the noblemen would deem it acceptable fare. In those times, shortbread had yet to earn its name and was actually made with oat flour instead of wheat flour as it is today.

shortbreadSome say that Queen Elizabeth was the first to popularize the partaking of shortbread and other sweet morsels with afternoon tea.

As the story goes, the Queen had a yen for tea and a light dessert one day, ordering her servants to prepare a tray that she could enjoy alone in her private sitting room. Queen Elizabeth took such a liking to this ritual that she soon began inviting guests to indulge along with her, and "afternoon tea and cookies" went on to become an English tradition.

While Queen Liz may have immortalized the tea-and-cookies ritual, Scotland took credit for the shortbread recipe, hence the label "Traditional Scottish Shortbread" that's used by so many modern-day shortbread companies. The famous shortbread recipe traveled along with the many Anglo Europeans who migrated to the States... and went on to become a New England favorite.

Next time you feel like raising a tea cup to your European heritage, why not do it with a bit of authentic Vermont Shortbread.

Copyright 2006 Ann Zuccardy. All rights reserved.


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