Classic Scottish Shortbread

Scottish ShortbreadThe Cookie Crumbles

As my grandfather grew older, it got harder and harder to figure out what to get him for Christmas. When you reach your 90s, you pretty much have everything you need. There is an actual limit to how many pairs of slippers a person should own.

Sees Candy was one of his favorites, as were framed pictures of the kids and family. I think I was a senior in high school when I bought a shortbread mold, and made him his first batch of Christmas Shortbread. It was a big hit. He dug in and started eating them before we finished opening presents. From then on, Gumpa got his own special tin of homemade shortbread from me every year.

Shortbread is one of my favorite cookies. The ingredients are uncomplicated, and it is a perfect accompaniment to a steaming hot cup of tea. For all it’s simplicity, making perfect shortbread can be tricky. You don’t want it to tough or too crumbly, and if you use a mold, there is always the possibility it will stick…which is a total bummer. The main thing is to make sure you use good quality butter (and lots of it). I like Kerry Gold or Plugra.

There are so many different versions of shortbread to fit whatever mood you’re in, and the best part is that it’s a year-round cookie. Anytime is a good time for shortbread in any form. Lemon. Lavender. Chocolate. Pecan. Earl Grey..the possibilities are endless.

The best, in my opinion, is traditional Scottish shortbread (Can’t go wrong with the classics.) This recipe adds some oats to the mix for a slightly nuttier flavor. It’s fantastic, and a good choice for gift giving.

Classic Scottish Shortbread
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Yields 16 shortbread wedges

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
generous 1/2 teaspoon salt*
1 cup oats, traditional or quick
1 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
*If you use salted butter, reduce the salt to 1/4 teaspoon

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease an 8″ round cake pan.

The easiest way to make the dough is in a food processor. Place all of the ingredients into the work bowl, and process to make a smooth, sticky dough.

If you don’t have a food processor, grind the oats in a blender, or substitute quick oats, for the traditional oats. Combine the oats with the remaining ingredients, and mix until smooth.

Press the dough into the prepared pan, and score it into 16 wedges. A knife or baker’s bench knife, dipped in water between cuts, is the tool to use here.

Bake the shortbread for 35 to 40 minutes, until it’s firm and golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and after 5 minutes turn it out of the pan onto a piece of parchment, or a clean work surface. Cut all the way through the score marks to make wedges. Place them on a rack to cool completely.

If you want to play with this basic recipe, some ideas are: sprinkling chopped, toasted pecans on top, and gently press into the batter; or adding 1/2 teaspoon of maple flavoring, or 1 teaspoon of grated lemon zest.

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