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Posted on Tue, Jan 25, 2011 : 7 a.m.

Oatmeal Shortbread for Robert Burns Day

By Mary Bilyeu

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My maternal grandmother was always extraordinarily proud of being Scottish, and of being descended not just from MacGregors but from the Rob Roy branch of the MacGregors. So, having been raised to bask in this heritage (though it's just one of many facets to my mutt-dom), today is a holiday which I celebrate every year: Robbie Burns Day.

Mary Bilyeu, Contributor

Robert Burns was an 18th century poet whose most famous lines are undoubtedly the lyrics to Auld Lang Syne. He was a hero to the Scots, who celebrate his birthday every Jan. 25 with special Burns Suppers that most notably feature haggis — a dish, according to Wikipedia, "containing sheep's 'pluck' (heart, liver and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally simmered in the animal's stomach for approximately three hours. Most modern commercial haggis is prepared in a casing rather than an actual stomach." Yum!

In all honesty, I have never tried haggis ... and I'm not ashamed to admit that it's not on my "to do" list, either. Instead, I prefer to celebrate with shortbread cookies, an infinitely more delicious representative of Scottish cuisine!

Oats are a staple in Scotland, even though Samuel Johnson once referred to them as: "A grain which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people." And Scottish chef John Quigley has called shortbread "the jewel in the crown" of Scottish baked goods. So, why not combine them into a perfect little treat?

Delicious with a cup of cocoa or tea, these cookies are an ideal way to celebrate a literary birthday on a cold winter day ....

Winter: A Dirge (Robert Burns - 1781)

The wintry west extends his blast,
And hail and rain does blaw;
Or the stormy north sends driving forth
The blinding sleet and snaw:
While, tumbling brown, the burn comes down,
And roars frae bank to brae;
And bird and beast in covert rest,
And pass the heartless day.

"The sweeping blast, the sky o'ercast,"
The joyless winter day
Let others fear, to me more dear
Than all the pride of May:
The tempest's howl, it soothes my soul,
My griefs it seems to join;
The leafless trees my fancy please,
Their fate resembles mine!

Thou Power Supreme, whose mighty scheme
These woes of mine fulfil,
Here firm I rest; they must be best,
Because they are Thy will!
Then all I want — O do Thou grant
This one request of mine! —
Since to enjoy Thou dost deny,
Assist me to resign.

Oatmeal Shortbread

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
1 egg
2/3 cup quick-cook oats
3/4 cup unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8x8-inch baking pan.

In a mixing bowl, cream together butter and 1/3 cup sugar; stir in egg. Add oats, flour and salt; mix well. Press into the prepared pan.

Combine 1 tablespoon sugar with cinnamon; sprinkle over the batter. Bake for 25 minutes until shortbread is set when pressed lightly.

Immediately take a sharp knife and cut shortbread into 16 cookies. Let cool completely.

Mary Bilyeu has won or placed in more than 60 cooking contests and writes about her adventures in the kitchen. The phrase "You Should Only Be Happy" (written in Hebrew on the stone pictured next to the blog's title) comes from Deuteronomy 16:15 and is a wish for all her readers as they cook along with her ... may you always be happy here. Check out her blog — Food Floozie — in which she cooks, reviews restaurants and generally enthuses and effuses over all things food-related. Or send an email to


Peggy Lampman

Tue, Jan 25, 2011 : 7:48 p.m.

Mary: I love the wintry durge and recipe, as well. I wonder... do Ann Arbor food blogging woman share a bit of Scottish blood? My ancestral graveyard may be found off the coast of Scotland, in the Isle of Lewis! Hope to see you nxt Thursday! Peggy