I’ll be the first to admit that lately I’ve been slightly obsessed with my Scottish heritage. I’ve always been proud of my 32% Scotland on my AncestryDNA results. When I deciding where I wanted to travel in 2022, Scotland was at the top of my list for that reason. So, to prepare, why not dive right in to my Scottish-ness (that’s a word, right?). Therefore, today I’m baking Scottish Shortbread with my Scottish ancestors.
Scottish Shortbread got its start under the name “biscuit bread”. This “bread” was a result of leftover dough from bread making. It was dried out in a low oven which resulted in it being called a biscuit, which means “twice cooked”. Eventually the cooks realized they were onto something and replaced the yeast in the bread dough with butter and shortbread was born. Scottish historians attribute the popularity of Scottish Shortbread to Mary, Queen of Scots who was very fond of Petticoat Tails. These biscuits were a thin, crisp, buttery shortbread originally flavored with caraway seeds.
When looking for a recipe for Scottish Shortbread, I hit all the predictable cookbooks. You know the ones by Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood, and of course, my extensive collection of Great British Baking Show cookbooks, but none of those recipes felt right. I didn’t have an actual recipe that had been passed down, so I did what any good baker/genealogist would do. I googled Scottish Shortbread recipes. The recipe I found is from the website https://www.recipetineats.com/
8oz unsalted butter (2 sticks or 1 cup)
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup powdered sugar (or icing sugar)
2 cups plain/all purpose flour
Preheat oven to 325F (standard) or 300F (convection)
Butter and line a 9×13 pan with parchment paper with overhang
Beat butter until smooth (or use very soft butter and a wooden spoon)
Add powdered sugar and beat until combined
Add half the flour and beat until mostly combined. It should resemble wet sand.
Beat in the remainder of the flour. Use your hands to bring it together into a smooth ball of dough. Knead lightly if needed.
Roughly press down into a rectangle shape, then transfer into the pan. Press into the pan, but don’t press too hard! (It will make the cookies firmer)
Bake for 20 minutes until the edges are a very light golden and most of the surface is still pale gold.
Remove from oven. Working quickly, cut into desired shape and prick all over with a fork.
Return to the oven for 8 minutes or until the surface is light golden – not browned.
Turn the oven off, crack it open and leave to cool for at least one hour in the oven.
Remove from oven, use the paper overhang to remove the biscuits, and enjoy your Scottish Shortbread!