Originating from Scotland, and popular all across Britain (and now all over the world), shortbread is traditionally made from one part sugar, two parts butter and three parts flour. It really is that simple! But modern-day shortbread use more than 3 ingredients sometimes; rice flour or wheat flour is added often to bring new textures, cornstarch or cornflour often makes an appearance too, and granulated white sugar is often mixed with powdered/icing or brown sugar. Flavouring like vanilla, or fill-ins like seeds or nuts can also be added.
The first time I ate shortbread was when my uncle had brought home a biiiig tin of Walkers Shortbread (I still have the red and blue plaid box). I knew I had to make these beautiful shortbread cookies once at least, and after my recent ‘Nankhatai‘ post, I was intrigued and wanted to try these delicious buttery biscuits.
The recipes I came across are so many, but in essence, almost the same. I’ve actually gone with my gut, and not followed any particular recipe, using more wheat flour than AP flour, and in spite of it not looking perfect, it tastes quite good actually 😀 yay me!
Shortbread is traditionally shaped in any one of three shapes; individual round biscuits called ‘shortbread rounds’, thick rectangular ‘finger-cookies’, or triangular segments called ‘petticoat tails’ (believed to be named after certain pointed French biscuits called petits cotés, or derived from the old French name for small cakes, called petities gastellas). The biscuits can be shaped with a mould, that might consist of a pattern, though most commonly, they’re just pricked with a fork, or a dowel, and a round cookie mould is often placed in the middle of the dough circle, while baking.
My ‘petticoat tails’ as you see, are large and a little fatter/thicker than normal. I did cut them down into further halves later, but their thickness was due to me being lazy and refusing to bake in two batches 😛 The sprinkle of fine sugar is also optional; my biscuits weren’t overtly sweet and instead of icing or sanding sugar, I just sprinkled some fine granulated sugar to add to the crunch.
I got 8 wedges, that I sprinkled with sugar after baking, and I also didn’t use a traditional tart pan, or a cookie mould in the middle. I’ve taken inspiration from two recipes (VahChef and Joyofaking) and added whole wheat flour on my own accord and have used the process described by the Joyofbaking page. I loved it! I love the nuttiness of whole wheat flour, and these days I eat a lot of those biscuits. You can skip the whole wheat flour and use traditional all-purpose flour.
Scottish Shortbread Cookies/Biscuits
Ingredients: (Cup used 250 ml)
- Salted Butter – 170 gm (I have used 100 gm Amul butter and 70 gm Amul Lite margarine)
- Sugar – 85 gm
- Vanilla extract – 1 tsp (optional)
- All-purpose Flour – 3/4 cup
- Wheat flour – 1 cup
- Milk powder – 2 tbsp (10 gm approx, optional)
- Preheat oven to 150 C or 300 F.
- Start by chilling the butter until it is rock-solid. This will ensure a flaky, crumbly biscuit.
- In a large bowl, grate the frozen or chilled butter, and add the flour and sugar, as well as the vanilla and milk powder.
- Now using the tips of your fingers, rub in the butter with the flour and sugar mixture until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
- Grease a 9 inch tart pan, preferably with a removable bottom, or a 9 inch spring-form pan very well.
- Mix your dough until it just about comes together, but DO NOT turn it into a dough.
- Pick up segments and start patting them down inside your tart pan until all of it is gone in smoothly.
- Use your fingers and the back of your hand to smooth the top out evenly.
- Now using a knife, gently score the biscuit base into 8 or 16 wedges (refer pic above).
- Using a fork or a dowel, cake tester or toothpick, poke holes on top of the biscuit base (this will help air pass through them).
- Bake the shortbread for 40 to 50 minutes, or until it turns a light biscuit-colour and the edges begin to darken. (it took me 48 minutes).
- Remove from oven, and while still hot, run a knife over the scoring deeply.
- Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, and then demould very carefully.
- Store in air-tight container for up to 2 weeks or more (if it doesn’t get eaten before that 😛 )