Every year when I am deciding what to bake for Christmas, I always know that a
shortbread cookie will be on my list. This recipe for Scottish Shortbreads makes
a very fine Christmas cookie with its
rich buttery flavor and tender yet crumbly texture.
As its' name implies, this cookie
origin and is
made with just four ingredients, butter, sugar, rice flour (or corn
flour/cornstarch), and flour.
While shortbreads can be made in various shapes and sizes, we will stick with
tradition here and bake them in a round shape and then
cut the round into wedges, called "petticoat tails". The name
"petticoat tails" refers to the shape of the shortbread wedges which look like
petticoats worn by court ladies in the 12th century.
secret to making a good Scottish Shortbread is to have a light hand when
mixing the ingredients and to use the finest ingredients. So that means a high
quality salted butter. Now, butter in the States is graded according to flavor, color, texture, aroma and body and one easy way to tell the
quality of the butter is by the letter code or numerical number listed on the
butter's package. The highest grade is AA (93 score), then A (92 score),
followed by B (90 score). Also, these shortbreads contain rice flour which
gives the shortbread a more crumbly and tender texture. Rice flour is a fine
gluten-free flour produced from white or brown rice. It can be found in some
grocery stores or else health food stores. In the absence of rice flour you can
use cornstarch (corn flour) which is a fine white powder that comes from the
inner grain (endosperm) of corn.
Scottish Shortbreads are made by hand using just one large bowl. An electric
mixer is not needed. To make the shortbreads, first mix the flour with the rice
flour and sugar. Next, very cold butter (preferably frozen) is grated over the flour mixture.
Then, with your fingertips, take small handfuls of the mixture and gently rub
the butter into the flour. Keep lifting and rubbing the butter and flour
together until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs (you do not want a dough to
form). Take the shortbread and place it in an eight inch tart pan with a
removable bottom. Press into an even layer and prick the surface
with the tines of a fork. The final step is to take a sharp
knife and 'score' the top of the shortbread into 16 wedges. ('Score' means to
lightly mark or make shallow cuts into the top surface of the shortbread with a
sharp knife or prongs of a fork. Do not cut all the way through the pastry or
bread. Scoring is done both for decorative purposes and as a way for gases to
escape during baking.) Bake in a 300 degree F (150 degrees
C) for about 40-50 minutes or until biscuit colored. Remove
from oven, place on a wire rack to cool for five minutes before removing from
tart pan. Place the shortbread round on a cutting board and cut each shortbread
round into 16 wedges (along the lines scored). Cool completely on a wire rack.
Scottish Shortbreads: Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150
degrees C) with the rack in the middle of the oven. Have ready an 8 inch (20 cm)
tart pan with a removable bottom.
bowl whisk the flour with the rice flour (or corn flour/cornstarch) and the
sugar. Then take the very cold butter and grate it over the flour mixture. With
your fingertips, work the butter into the flour by lifting
small handfuls and rubbing the butter and flour together until the mixture looks
like breadcrumbs (you do not want a dough to form). Evenly press the shortbread
into the tart pan, smoothing the top as best as you can. Prick the surface with the tines of a fork and then, with a sharp knife, score the
top of the shortbread into 16 wedges. Bake for about 40 - 50 minutes (watch
carefully) or just until a light biscuit color. Remove from oven and place on a
wire rack to cool for about 5 minutes. Then remove from tart pan. Place the
shortbread round on a cutting board and cut each shortbread round into 16 wedges
(along the lines scored). Cool completely on a wire rack.
Shortbread cookies with keep
in an airtight container for about a week or they can be frozen.
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