Scottish shortbread has a long history that can be traced back all the way to the 12th century. During the Middle Ages, shortbread was originally made from leftover bread dough scraps that were dried out in a low oven until they hardened into a rusk. Over time the yeast in the bread was replaced with butter and the hard biscuit bread developed into shortbread.
Mary Queen of Scots of the 16th century was said to be very fond of a type of shortbread called Petticoat Tails, which was a thin, buttery, and crisp shortbread flavored with caraway seeds. Today’s shortbread is made with flour, butter, and sugar and can be shaped into Petticoat Tails (a large circle divided into segments), shortbread rounds (individual round biscuits), or shortbread fingers (a large slab cut into rectangles).
The Scottish enjoy shortbread during special occasions such as Christmas, Hogmanay (Scottish New Year’s Eve), and weddings. In Shetland, it is traditional to break a decorated shortbread over the head of a new bride as she steps over the threshold of her new home.
2 sticks (1/2 lb) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Ingredient note: If you can find it, this recipe is best made with Kerrygold Irish Butter. The soft consistency of this particular butter makes combining all of the ingredients much easier.
- Preheat the oven to 325F.
- Beat the softened butter in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment until it is soft and light. With the machine running, slowly pour the sugar in and continue beating for 5 to 10 minutes, until the butter is very light and pale. Turn the mixer down to its lowest setting and stir in the flour just until it is combined. It is important to not over mix or the dough will become tough during baking.
- Turn the dough onto a very lightly floured surface. Roll it out gently and shape into a 12 inch circle that is 1/2 inch thick. Using your two index fingers, pinch the dough along the edges as you would a pie crust. Score the surface of the dough to make individual segments. Do not cut all the way through the dough, however! Decorate each segment with a toothpick marks.
- Bake for 20-30 minutes until the shortbread is very lightly golden around the edges. Do not let it brown. Cut through the segments while the dough is still hot. Let cool completely before eating.
Ith gu leòir!