Origins of Scottish Shortbread
Original Scottish shortbread evolved from medieval “biscuit bread”, which was a twice-baked, enriched bread roll dusted with sugar and spices which hardened into a rusk. However, gradually, the yeast in this “biscuit” was replaced by butter and from then on it was seen as a luxury good which was reserved for special occasions like Christmas, Hogmanay (Scottish New Year’s Eve), and weddings.
Shortbread may have been made as early as the 12th century. However, Scottish cookery has always differed from culinary endeavors south of the border. The Romans influenced English cooking but as they did not stay long in Scotland, historically Scottish cuisine developed in a different direction and really took off through the influence of the French at the court of Mary, Queen of Scots, in the 16th century. It is said that she enjoyed “Petticoat Tails“, a rounded version of shortbread baked and cut into triangular wedges.
In 1736, the first printed recipe was created by a Scotswoman named Mrs. McLintock.
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.”
Fun Facts about Shortbread:
- In Scotland, a decorated shortbread was traditionally broken over a bride’s head before she entered her new home.
- Shortbread was classified as bread by bakers to avoid paying the tax placed on biscuits.
- The Scottish custom of eating shortbread on New Year’s Eve derives from an ancient pagan ritual of eating Yule Cakes.
- January 6th is National Shortbread Day.
- 150 grams of all-purpose flour
- 110 grams of butter
- 65 grams of sugar
- 1 gram of salt
In a mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, and butter. Then, knead until the batter is smoother. In order to make the wedges pat the dough into a large 0,5 cm high rectangle and use a relatively thick toothpick to make holes at ca. 1 cm intervals over the whole of the surface. With a knife cut little rectangular “fingers” and bake them at 175°C for 25 to 30 minutes.
As an alternative to the traditional recipe, you may wish to alter its taste. Therefore you add 1 tablespoon of lemon peel and 1 tablespoon of poppy seeds or you can add 40 grams of unsweetened coconut flakes.