Velvety and Bright: A new kind of shortbread

Posted 11/29/19

When The Kid went to college in Vermont, the experience turned my child into a 70-year-old British man.

Let me explain.

I lived in Michigan as a toddler, but have no memory of it. Petey’s …

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Velvety and Bright: A new kind of shortbread

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When The Kid went to college in Vermont, the experience turned my child into a 70-year-old British man.

Let me explain.

I lived in Michigan as a toddler, but have no memory of it. Petey’s lived in Kansas, but it doesn’t get New England cold there. That kind of climate is completely foreign to us.

So, when we got The Kid up to Montpelier for the first term, we went to Onion River Outdoors, the local camping/sporting goods outfitters. We presented ourselves, and said, “We’re from North Carolina, and have no understanding of your ways. Dress this child for winter in Vermont from the underwear out.”

Of course, my discussing underwear in public thrilled The Kid to no end.

Classes started in October. In November, The Kid told us it had started snowing two weeks before Halloween, and the snow was, and remained, at armpit height. Turns out Vermont was enjoying the coldest, snowiest winter in 40 years.

When we returned to Vermont in April, to bring our little scholar and associated belongings home to North Carolina, the transformation was complete.

Our Carolina child was rocking those heavy, ugly grandpa cardigans with pockets and thick collars, drinking buckets of hot tea, and eating Walker’s shortbread.

I make one Christmas gift for The Kid each year. A few years ago I adapted a Martha Stewart recipe and made a pretty close approximation to Walker’s.

Unlike Petey and I, who each have a ridiculously over-developed sweet tooth, our spawn does not. But red velvet has always been a favorite. So for another Christmas, I searched for a red velvet shortbread recipe to make for our little old British dude.

Turns out, red velvet shortbread was not actually a thing. So I did what any loving mother would do, and invented it.

The Kid loved it.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at

Red Velvet Shortbread

1 & 1/3 cups (2 sticks plus 6 tablespoons) brown butter, room temperature, plus more for pans

2/3 cup sugar

¾ teaspoon salt

¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon red gel food coloring

3 & 1/3 cups all-purpose flour minus 2 tablespoons whisked together with 2 tablespoons Hershey’s Dark Cocoa

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 275°. Butter 9-by-13-by-1-inch baking pan, and line bottom with parchment paper.

Brown butter: Melt butter in small pan, then continue to cook until solids have turned the color of caramel. Place into small bowl and let it cool until it’s softened. Place into bowl of mixer. Cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add salt, vanilla, vinegar, red food coloring, and beat to combine. Add flour and cocoa, 1 cup at a time, beating on low speed until just combined.

Press dough into prepared pan, leveling and smoothing the top. Using a dough scraper or the back of a knife, cut into ten strips on the short side, and four on the long, so you have 40 ‘fingers.’ Using the tines of a fork or a wooden skewer, create a line of five holes down the center of each cookie, being careful to keep surface from breaking up each time you pull fork from dough.

Bake shortbread until just slightly darker around the edges, 70-85 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool until just warm enough to handle — if it cools completely, separation into individual pieces will be almost impossible. Place another cooling rack on top of pan, and invert. Remove parchment. Gently turn shortbread out onto large cutting board, and with a serrated knife, carefully separate cuts into bars. Store in an airtight container for up to three months.


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