Daily Archives: 24 January 2011

Scottish food: Shortbread, the National Biscuit

Ah, tomorrow is 25 January, Burns Night!

To mark the event, what could be more fitting than the classic Scottish biscuit, shortbread? Just butter, sugar and flour, but combined and baked, they turn into something meltingly delicious, buttery, sweet and incredibly more-ish. There really are few things better with a cup of tea. If you visit Edinburgh or Glasgow, you will see the stuff everywhere, but in my humble view, quite right too.

I like to keep shortbread simple, so I don’t go crazy with flavours. Of course, shortbread can be great with vanilla, spices, citrus peel, dried fruit or chocolate chips, and I would not turn it down if it were offered to me. I just happen to think that the simple sweet, buttery flavour is just great on its own. I will go as far as adding a little pinch of salt, but that’s about it. The only tweak that I make is to add a couple of spoonfuls of cornflour in place of some of the plain flour, which makes the shortbread just that little bit more melting when you eat it. But be sure just to add a little!

Shortbread is also a great recipe if you are looking for biscuits that keep their shape. No egg, baking powder or water, so the biscuits might puff up just a little bit, but generally come out of the oven as you put them in. If you are shopping, you might be tempted by the fancy, intricate petticoat tails variety, but at home, it’s usually a choice between rounds or fingers. I prefer fingers – far easier to dip into your tea! At this stage, I have to confess to being a bit of a nerd – I use a metal rule to cut the dough into strips, the measure equal lengths of dough to make all the shortbread the same size. But hey, sprinkled with sugar and baked, they do look good!

To make shortbread:

• 50g icing sugar
• 100g unsalted butter
• 150g plain flour (or 125g plain flour plus 25g cornflour)
• pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 180°C (375°F). Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper.

In a bowl, combine the butter and sugar until creamy. Add the flour and salt, and work until you have a smooth dough. You will probably have to use your hands towards the end.

Sprinkle a worktop with flour, and turn out the dough. Roll to 1cm thickness, and use a cutter or a knife to make the biscuits. Transfer to the baking sheets, and chill the biscuits for 30 minutes in the fridge.

Top the shortbread with a sprinkling of caster sugar, and bake for 15-20 minutes until the biscuits are a pale golden colour.

Worth making? A super-simple recipe that provides a melt-in-the-mouth texture. Can also be customised according to taste with spices, citrus peel, vanilla, chocolate chips or dried fruit.

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Filed under Recipe, Scottish Food, Sweet Things