Friday, May 6, 2016

Mary McLeod Shortbread: A Mother's Day Treat

Ever since Mary McLeod opened her first tiny shop Mary McLeod Shortbread at Yonge and Eglinton in Toronto over 30 years ago, I've been an enormous fan of her buttery cookies. Her story is one of inspiration, imagination and pure Scottish determination. Newly divorced, a trained nutritionist and looking to get her children through university, she needed to make a living and decided to do what she did best — bake.  Her specialty then and now is her fabulous shortbread, made using a recipe her grandmother taught her when she was just a wee girl in Scotland. Her shortbreads are all handmade with natural ingredients, rich with butter and perfectly textured. 30 years after she opened her store, Mary McLeod is still going strong, and continues to develop new recipes well into her 70's. My favourite recipe has always been her Chocolate Crunch Shortbread — it just seems to melt in your mouth. Mary MacLeod's shortbread is sold at her new location on Queen Street East as well as Holt Renfrew and Summerhill Market, but at $12.75 for 6 cookies, they're not an inexpensive confection. However, I did discover Mary's shortbread recipe online a few years ago, and now make Mary MacLeod-style shortbread for all of my nearest and dearest every Christmas — and it tastes exactly like the original, at a quarter of the price but made with love! Not just for Christmas, these shortbread also make a great Mother's day gift — as sweet as your dear Mum.

Mary MacLeod's Chocolate Crunch Shortbread
Makes 60

1 lb butter
6 oz of icing sugar
2 oz of white fruit sugar
4 oz of Durum wheat flour
20 oz of Cake or Pastry Flour
7 oz Callebaut Belgian chocolate chips, finely chopped
1 bar of Lindt extra creamy milk chocolate

Weigh out all the dry ingredients into different bowls, with the butter in the main mixing bowl. Using a standing mixer, cream the butter, icing sugar, sugar, and durum wheat flour until a pale white colour. Then add the chopped Callebaut Belgian chocolate then gradually add the flour into the mixture, adding a bit at a time. Stop adding flour once you have a soft, pliable dough. If you don't use all the flour that's just fine — you'll know when it's done when the dough doesn't stick to your hands.

Take the shortbread out of the bowl and place onto a clean surface. Knead it for a few minutes until workable and pliable. Form the dough into little balls and flatten slightly with the palms of your hands, then place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Using a small upturned glass or cookie scoop, indent the tops of the shortbread to create small inset circles, then top with a square of chocolate pressed into the centre.

Bake at 325°F for 22 minutes, rotating the pan 180° halfway through. Using a spatula, remove the shortbread from the baking sheet and let them cool on a rack. Once cooled, dust the tops with icing sugar.

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