I've been a Mary McLeod Shortbread fan ever since she opened her first tiny shop at Yonge and Eglinton in Toronto over 30 years ago. 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.
Mary MacLeod hard at work making shortbread
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 Shortbread's Queen Street location
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 last year, and made Mary MacLeod-style shortbread for all of my nearest and dearest this past Christmas — and it tasted exactly like the original, at a quarter of the price but made with love!
Simple ingredients and simply delicious
Mary MacLeod's Shortbread
8 oz of butter
3 oz of icing sugar
1 oz of white fruit sugar
2 oz of Durum wheat flour
12 oz of Cake or Pastry Flour
1 bar of Lindt extra creamy milk chocolate
Weigh out all your ingredients into different bowls, with the butter in the main mixing bowl. Using a small hand mixer, cream the butter, icing sugar, sugar, and durum wheat flour until a pale white colour. When you think it's combined, take a pinch of it in between your finger and thumb to see if the sugar and durum wheat have broken down into the butter. Clean off the mixer beaters.
Working with your hands, gradually add the flour into the mixture. Stop adding flour if you have a soft, pliable dough. If you don't use all the flour that is ok. You will know when it is done when the dough does not stick to your hands.
Take the shortbread out of the bowl and place onto a wooden board. Knead it for a few minutes until workable and pliable. Form the dough into little balls and then press them into patties, and place on a parchment lined cookie tray. Using a small upturned glass, indent the tops of the shortbread creating small inset circles, then finish with a square of chocolate pressed into the centre.
Bake at 250°F for 30 minutes and then rotate the pan. Bake for another 30 minutes until golden brown. Using a spatula, remove the shortbread and let them cool on a rack. Once cooled, dust the tops with icing sugar for the full Mary MacLeod 'look'. Store in an airtight tin or wrap them up in clear cellophane as gifts for friends.
639 Queen Street East, Toronto