Sweetbreads, Shortcake, Shortbread

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

produce sweetbreads.

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

for Americans.

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

shortbread.

That’s the long and short of it.

Copyright 2006, Ann Zuccardy.