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A Tale Of Two Cookies: The Brass Sisters' Shortbread

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A Tale Of Two Cookies: The Brass Sisters' Shortbread

A Tale Of Two Cookies: The Brass Sisters' Shortbread

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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We all know this statement to be true. Cookies are a sometime food.


FRANK OZ: (As Cookie Monster's voice) Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

SIEGEL: And that sometime is now.


OZ: (As Cookie Monster's voice) Cookie.

SIEGEL: No worries. Our Found Recipes series has you and your cookie monster covered.


MARILYN BRASS: I'm Marilyn. We're the Brass sisters.

BRASS: We're the Brass sisters.

SIEGEL: And they are back, this time with a story about a holiday treat from their childhood in Winthrop, Massachusetts.

BRASS: I was 10.

BRASS: I was 15.

BRASS: Long time ago, every Christmas, this nice Jewish family, the Brasses, would go over to the Sullivans. They always had a Christmas tree decorated in the parlor, and there was a cozy kitchen where my mother and Dorothy would put out the baked items that they were exchanging. Dorothy Sullivan's forte were Christmas cookies.


BRASS: Going into her kitchen was like going into a winter wonderland of Christmas cookies.

BRASS: It was like Santa Claus' bakery.

BRASS: There were wonderful snowman cookies with powdered sugar and Tom Thumb cookies that have a thumbprint with jam in the middle. But the cookie we really, really loved was shortbread.

BRASS: I will interrupt. We ate every piece of shortbread. We ate every crumb. We almost licked the plate.

BRASS: Dorothy very graciously gave us the recipe for her shortbread. We put it in a place that was so safe we couldn't find it.

BRASS: Even the Brink's robbers couldn't find it.

BRASS: I know that. We had to live on the memory and the taste memory of that shortbread for almost 60 years. And then we were putting together our first cookbook, researching it, trying to remember how Dorothy Sullivan had made her shortbread.

So we started talking with our friends, Barbara and Denise Kerry(ph). They told us a family story about their aunt Liz O'Neill. Her shortbread was very authentic because she had emigrated as a teen from Edinburgh. The two little girls would actually bake the shortbread with Aunt Liz.

BRASS: They told us it was rich and crumbly and buttery. Denise and Barbara gave us the recipe. We went home and we made the recipe. And when it cooled, we cut it up into fingers, crisp, crumbly, delicious fingers. And we each took one. Our eyes closed.

BRASS: In ecstasy.

BRASS: In ecstasy. And then our eyes went up to heaven, and we just looked at each other and said, that's it.

BRASS: Now, Sheila, you have a rule for making shortbread.

BRASS: Always use butter. Don't use shortening. Don't use margarine. It has to be butter. Butter, butter, butter.

BRASS: A rich man is a poor man who has found something he lost. Now that goes for two Brass sisters, too. We lost something and we found this recipe. We hope you have as much fun baking it during this holiday season as we do.

BRASS: Amen.

SIEGEL: Sheila and Marilyn Brass, authors of "Heirloom Baking with the Brass Sisters." You can find their shortbread recipe on the Found Recipes page at



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