Scotland is the home of this delectable cookie that was originally called biscuit bread as per the article The History of Scottish Shortbread. Literally leftover bread that was twice baked till it became a rusk, the recipe has evolved considerably over the centuries. In the cookie we eat today the yeast has been replaced with butter, lending the recipe the name Shortbread.
The biscuits real claim to fame takes place somewhere around the mid 16th Century. "Petticoat Tails", a thin, crispy and buttery shortbread were a favorite of Mary Queen of Scotts. The gentry took their lead from the Queen and added the sweet treat to their daily repertoire.
Since the cost of butter made baking these cookies prohibitive the masses could only enjoy them on special occasions. Thus the cookies fame as a Christmas treat.
My Pakistani roots typically make me lean towards the more British variety of baked goods. This stems from the time the British ruled the Subcontinent and popularized the custom of afternoon tea. This is one of the things I look forward to the most during my visits to my family.
I grew up dipping these biscuits in my tea throughout my childhood. Their slightly crumbly and firm texture made them perfect for this and forever changed my palate in their favor.
My children, being Americans prefer sugar cookies and in order to accommodate them I came up with this recipe. Sweet, salty and buttery like my favorite cookie, but a bit softer like sugar cookies they are just perfect!
EASY SHORTBREAD COOKIES
- parchment paper
- Rolling Pin
- measuring cups
- cookie cutters
- cookie sheet
- 2 Cups Salted Butter
- 1 Cup Granulated Sugar
- 2 Teaspoons Vanilla Essence
- 4 Cups Flour
- 2 Tablespoons Heavy Whipping Cream
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Cream the butter and sugar together
- Add the vanilla essence
- Add the flour gradually and beat till all of the ingredients are blended
- Add the Cream and mix just till the mixture binds together.
- Remove the dough and chill for 15 minutes in the fridge
- Roll out the dough between two sheets of parchment.
- cut out shapes or shape into a rectangle or circle,scoring and poking holes with a fork for more even cooking and transfer to baking sheet
- Chill for another 15 Minutes
- Bake for 12-14 minutes till edges are lightly brown
- Chilled Butter For Dough
As instructed in my Sweet Tart Crust Recipe the key element in baking any "short" pastry is to have chilled butter and a chilled dough. The butter should be soft but not melted to get a perfect texture.
- Cream To Help Bind The Dough
I find that overworking the dough releases glutens and prevents the cookies from being crispy. Adding the 2 Tablespoons of Chilled Heavy cream at the end will help bind the dough
- Chilling The Dough
Chill the dough in the fridge for 15 minutes before baking. This prevents the butter from melting too fast, which would make for thin and overly brown cookies.
- Oven Temperature Low
An oven that is too hot will also make the butter melt too fast. Shortbread cookies should be white with just lightly brown edges. If you desire crisper cookies, leave them in the oven for 15-30 minutes after turning the oven off. If you still find the cookies softer than you like, rebaked them for 5-10 minutes at 250-300 degrees (depending on your oven).
- Perfect Ratios
the typical Shortbread has only 3 ingredients, flour, butter and sugar, with salt as an add in option. The ideal ratio is 3:2:1 for a perfect traditional shortbread.
- Softer Cookies
Since I was aiming for slightly softer cookies which have eggs in them I chose to add a tad extra flour to make them softer. I also added the vanilla essence for this purpose.
- High Fat Butter
I opted for salted butter and as always use Kerrygold in all of my baking due to it's higher fat content. Some people prefer to use unsalted butter and add the pinch of salt as it allows them to better control the amount of salt in the recipe.
- Type Of Sugar
Traditional Shortbread cookies have Caster sugar which is not easily available in the US but can be found in some specialty stores. Don't confuse this with confectioners sugar which has cornflour in it and can change the biscuit texture. If Caster Sugar isn't available use the granulated variety you probably have in your pantry.