Scottish Shortbread

One of Scotland's most famous exports - and one that's very easy to make at home.

Vegetarian. Hands-on time: 10 mins. Total time: 55 mins.

Contributed by Mike Lewis (July 2011).

Scottish Shortbread

Photo © Mike Lewis

Who can resist a crisp slice of Scottish shortbread? Well, if you're on a calorie-controlled diet, I suppose you might. But, putting that to one side, you must agree that a nice piece of shortbread is always a delicious treat.

So what exactly is shortbread? Despite the name, it has nothing to do with bread. Rather, it's a cookie (a biscuit in Scotland), made entirely with butter, flour and sugar. Unlike the similarly named shortcake, it contains no baking powder or other raising agent.

In Scotland, you find shortbread on sale in every convenience store and supermarket - and especially in tourist outlets, where it's offered at above-average prices in tartan-decorated boxes, usually sporting a picture of Edinburgh Castle or the Loch Ness Monster.

It's also very easy to make at home. I have several recipes, but the one I'm offering here is the simplest and most reliable.



Oven: Pre-heat to 300F (150C)

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together.

Sift the flour and rice flour into the bowl. Combine with the butter and sugar, kneading gently to form a firm dough.

Lightly dust a 7-inch (18 cm) sandwich tin with cornstarch. Shake the tin gently to distribute the cornstarch evenly over the surface.

Place the dough in the tin, and press it down to form an even layer that covers the whole of the base. Run a sharp knife around the inside edge of the tin so as to loosen the dough.

Turn the tin upside down on an ungreased baking tray. Give it a good thump so that the dough drops out onto the sheet, retaining its shape. Remove any excess cornflour with a pastry brush. Put the sandwich tin to one side - it's not used again in this recipe.

Use the knife to score the dough into eight wedge-shaped pieces.

Bake in the middle of the oven for about 45 minutes or until it's just starting to turn brown.

Leave to cool before optionally dusting with sugar. Then cut into wedges along the scores. Store in an airtight box.

Note on quantities and temperatures:
Quantities are given in American (cups), imperial (oz, fl oz) and metric (g, ml) units. Do not mix the units - use one or other system throughout the recipe.
See also How much does a cup weigh?
oz = ounces, fl oz = fluid ounces, g = grams, ml = milliliters, tsp = teaspoons, tbsp = tablespoons.
Oven temperatures are given in degrees F (Fahrenheit) and C (Celsius).
For fan-assisted ovens, reduce the temperature by 20F or 10C.