Okay, it’s time to clear up the shortbread confusion once
and for all.
Today I went to a pot luck party. I brought tourtiere, a
traditional French Canadian meat pie that my grandmother
used to make. One guy said, “Aw man…you didn’t bring your
sweetbreads!” To this I replied, “Nope, that would have been
OFFAL!” No one got my play on words, but I was pretty
pleased with myself.
People call my product (shortbread) all kinds of things.
Allow me to offer a brief explanation of the difference
between sweetbreads, shortcake and shortbread so that
next time you order, you’ll know what to ask for!
Sweetbreads are animal innards. Often they are
made from the thymus or pancreas of a piglet or calf. They
have no relation to shortbread. I have tried sweetbreads at a
fancy restaurant and found them pretty darn good. I had to try
them once! I have no clue where the name sweetbread
comes from. Vermont Shortbread Company does not
Shortcake is a sweet biscuit. It’s typically crumbly
and made with flour, sugar, butter or some other fat, milk or
cream and baking soda or baking powder. Strawberry
shortcake (fresh strawberries and whipped cream thrown
on top of one of these biscuits) is a favorite summer dessert
Shortbread (my gourmet food product), is a
traditional Scottish cookie made from butter, sugar, and
flour. Our version at Vermont Shortbread Company contains
a lot of butter, giving it a slightly chewy texture. We fill our
shortbread with jam fillings (raspberry or strawberry),
chocolate, lemon curd, walnut cinnamon, almond, or leave it
plain with no filling (traditional shortbread). I’ve seen
shortbread in many forms – a large round “cake” (we call it a
gift box at VSC) baked in a mold that gives it a pretty design
with scored triangular wedges called petticoat tails, small
round cookies, or “fingers” (long rectangular pieces). At
Vermont Shortbread Company, we make a shortie which is
a 4″ round shortbread baked in a tart pan.
In summary, shortbread is an elegant, classic, old
fashioned and simple dessert that has become a
Christmas favorite for many people, tall and short. Enjoy
your sweetbreads and shortcake, but BUY some
That’s the long and short of it.
Copyright 2006, Ann Zuccardy.