I always like a cookie with just a few ingredients. Especially when it is as tasty and easy to bake as this buttery and crumbly Scottish shortbread. In the Middle Ages this cookie was made from left over bread dough. It was baked in a cooling oven until it was rock hard and easy to bring along on journeys. Over the years butter and sugar were added to the dough and it became a much nicer cookie. Bakers still kept calling it bread as they had to pay tax on cookies and not on bread. Short in this sense means crumbly. The more butter used in this dough, the more crumbly the cookies will become. Shortbread is usually baked in these triangle-shaped petticoat tails (probably named after lace-bordered petticoats), fingers or little rounds. You will always find the little holes made with a fork in these cookies. They do not only make a pretty decoration, but also keep the pastry from warping while it is baking. Shortbread is a very traditional Scottish cookie and is eaten during Hogmanay (Scottish New Year’s Eve). On the Orkney Islands they used to break a piece of decorated shortbread with caraway seeds over the head of a new bride on the threshold of her new house for luck and fertility. I would choose shortbread over uncooked rice any time!
Shortbread cookie from Scotland
For about 8 pieces
120 grams (1 stick) soft, unsalted butter + extra for buttering the tin
60 grams (¼ cup) sugar
pinch of salt
180 grams (1 ⅔ cups) flour
With an electric mixer beat the butter with the sugar for about 5 mins. until light and creamy.
Add the flour and the salt.
Quickly knead into a soft dough. Butter a cake tin (∅ 15 cm/6 inches) and line the bottom with baking paper. A tin with fluted edges gives a pretty result.
Pat the dough in the tin. Cover with cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for about 30 mins.
Preheat the oven to 150 ºC/300ºF. Cut the dough into 8 pieces and make a pretty design with a fork.
Bake in the middle of the oven for about 50 mins. until done. The shortbread should stay nice and pale.
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