I do love shortbread, I think it’s mainly because I grew up with it, we would visit my Gran’s house and get shortbread for a snack but more so every New Year as this is the tradition in Scotland.
Through the ‘Taste of Scotland’ scheme that promotes authentic and innovative Scottish cooking, Scottish cuisine has enjoying a renaissance and now many believe that the best food in Britain is to be found north of the Border. The story of shortbread begins with the medieval “biscuit bread”. Any leftover dough from bread making was dried out in a low oven until it hardened into a type of rusk: the word “biscuit” means “twice cooked”. Gradually the yeast in the bread was replaced by butter, and biscuit bread developed into shortbread.
Shortbread was an expensive luxury and for ordinary people, shortbread was a special treat reserved just for special occasions such as weddings, Christmas and New Year. In Shetland it was traditional to break a decorated shortbread cake over the head of a new bride on the threshold of her new home. The custom of eating shortbread at New Year has its origins in the ancient pagan Yule Cakes which symbolised the sun. In Scotland it is still traditionally offered to “first footers” at New Year.
Shortbread is traditionally formed into one of three shapes: one large circle divided into segments (“Petticoat Tails”); individual round biscuits (“Shortbread Rounds”), or a thick rectangular slab cut into “fingers.” However, these days as we see some amazing cookie cutter shapes, they can be cut into whatever you like. As it is the Winter Season here just now, I decided to go for some lovely Snowflake Designs.
From memory when my Gran’s used to make Shortbread, the rule of thumb is always 3,2,1, 3 parts Flour to 2 parts Butter to 1 part sugar. Stick with this and you can’t go wrong.
Makes about 10-12 Shortbreads
115g Plain Flour
55g Rice Flour
55g Sugar (Caster or Icing) – (Extra Sugar to finish)
- Pre heat your oven to 150 deg C Fan.
- In a mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar, sift in the flours.
- Mix until it resembles bread crumbs, then tip onto a floured surface and work by hand to bring the dough together.
- Gently roll out to about 1/2 inch thickness, if using a cutter, cut into your designs and lay onto a greaseproof baking tray. If creating petticoats, press into a round baking tin, or fingers, press into a rectangle baking tin. Now refrigerate for about 20 minutes, this helps the biscuits to stop spreading when being baked. Prick the shortbread with a fork and bake for about 20-25 minutes until golden brown.
- Remove from oven and while still hot sprinkle with some sugar to finish. Allow to cool.