Rose’s Shortbread

Queen of Scottish cookies.

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Rose Fraser could make the perfect shortbread cookie with her eyes closed.

She has become so connected to the mixing process, so intrinsically linked to the dough’s smell and texture when it is ready to pour, that she doesn’t even need to look at it. “If I were blindfolded, I’d be able to tell,” Fraser says, sipping a coffee as her long blonde hair dangles around her. “When you work with gluten, the gluten releases the longer you mix, so you have to stop it right before it fully goes crazy and you’ve got a ball. It should look like bread crumbs, very soft and very airy.” Fraser runs her bakery, Rose’s Shortbread, out of her custom-built commercial kitchen in Delta. As its name suggests, Rose’s Shortbread focuses on just one thing—and does it extremely well. Though shortbread is traditionally double-baked and therefore quite hard and crunchy, Fraser’s product is light, crumbly, indulgent. It is delicate. It melts in your mouth. It is difficult to eat just one piece.

Though she does sometimes recruit her husband or kids to help, Fraser is basically a one-woman show. She bakes, cuts, and packages all of the squares herself; she even does most of her own deliveries, and some of her customers have been so tickled by the idea that they try to take her inside for a glass of wine. “It’s amazing how appreciative people are, even for just a little box: ‘You’re hand-delivering it?’ ‘Yes! I want to make sure it gets there!’” she says. “Some people are just so nice. It’s really nice and fun to do this, and find those people. It’s an interesting journey. You meet interesting people; conversations are had just because of the shortbread.” Aside from the original recipe, Fraser experiments with flavours, and currently also offers chocolate, salted caramel, lemon, and chocolate dip versions, the last of which she gleefully admits took a decent amount of taste testing.

And though she has her formula down pat, Fraser emphasizes the importance of quality and consistency when it comes to her product. Too much of one ingredient, or too little of another, will result in disaster. “You can’t deviate. Sometimes you think, ‘Oh, there’s a little extra butter here, I’ll just throw it in,’” she says. “Big mistake. You can’t mess around at all.”

Fraser’s relationship with shortbread has been serious and long-term. Born in Scotland, where shortbread was invented, Fraser baked the buttery treat with her mother using a family recipe with secret (and foolproof) ingredient proportions. When her family moved to Canada when Fraser was 14, she and her mother continued to bake as a way to connect to their homeland. When she married and had kids of her own, Fraser taught her daughter how to make it, too. Working at London Drugs (where she still is twice a week), she considered herself a hobby baker, just doing it for enjoyment. But the order requests started to roll in, and in October of last year she decided to create an official business. “This is actually my fun job, my hobby, as it were, that kind of turned into this thing,” she says. Rose’s Shortbread can be purchased through its website as well as at two boutiques near Delta, and Fraser does a recurring pop-up at West Elm Market in Vancouver. She has dreams of expanding—she’d love to be carried in more stores, and to have a few team members helping her—but she is careful not to spend too much time focused on big-scale growth. “I’m just puttering along and enjoying the journey,” she says. Her voice is high and bubbly. Her smile is big.

Historically, shortbread was a luxury treat reserved for royals and special occasions. Fraser brings that heightened quality to her everyday practise, using top-notch ingredients made in Canada. It is a meaningful product for her: a family recipe, a connection to her birthplace, a comfort. “It’s almost like meditating,” she says of baking the cookies. “Because I know the pattern so well, I just kind of do it. I didn’t realize how big a part of my life it actually is.”

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April 21, 2016