02 July 2008


I spent my sophomore year of college in England, and at the end of October, two friends and I took a quick trip to Edinburgh, my only exposure to Scotland. In all honesty, I don't remember a great deal from that trip: just the drunk guy belting out "Strawberry Fields Forever" in Victoria Station before we boarded an overnight coach to Edinburgh, the fact that Edinburgh Castle (complete with dog cemetery) struck me as more romantic than Windsor Castle (the only other British castle I'd seen at that point), the bag-piper outside St. Giles' Cathedral, and the delicious sautéed mushrooms and pizza we had for lunch one day at some little hole-in-the-wall restaurant that I'd never be able to find again. And of course, the mouth-watering shortbread.

Edinburgh as seen from the castle

Edinburgh Castle

The Dog Cemetery at Edinburgh Castle

When I returned home at the end of my year abroad, I wanted to recreate that Scottish shortbread. Unhappy with any of the recipes in my mother's cookbooks, I developed my own. This is one of the easiest cookie recipes in the world--just three ingredients and no electric mixer (using a mixer will make the cookies slightly tough, I’ve discovered). Because there are only three ingredients, it is important to use real butter; no substitution will taste authentic. It’s also important to include all three ingredients. My little brother will never let me live down the time I absentmindedly left the sugar out of my own very basic recipe!


1¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
½ cup butter

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, stir together flour and sugar. Cut in butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs and starts to cling. Form mixture into a ball and knead until smooth.
2. Press mixture into an 8-inch springform pan. Press the tines of a fork around the outside of the dough to create a decorative edge. Use a butter knife (so you don’t scratch the pan) to cut dough into 16 wedges, but leave them in the pan.
3. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until set. Cut into wedges again while warm. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely on wire rack.

Makes 16 servings.

Nutrition facts per serving: 93 calories, 6 g total fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 45 mg sodium, 10 g carbohydrates, 0 g fiber, 3 g sugars, 1 g protein.

To make the shortbread into shapes other than wedges, form dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough ¼ inch thick. Using a knife (for shortbread strips) or a cookie cutter (for rounds or other shapes), cut dough into desired shapes. Place one inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Reduce baking time to 15-20 minutes, or until bottoms just start to brown. Let cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely on wire rack.

For the favors for my wedding, with the help of many family members and friends, I used this recipe to make a couple hundred shortbread hearts. We dipped one corner in melted chocolate and packaged them in small plastic bags tied shut with ribbons. They turned out quite well.

1 comment:

Mac A. Bailey said...

I got my recipe from a lovely Scottish woman who actually grew up in Scotland, and it is exactly the same as yours. So, you did well.I always double and often quadruple this(as I have five children). My one tip is that I spray Baker's Joy on a cushionaire cookie sheet, roll or press it out right onto the pan in a general rectangle. The ends, I slice off with a serrated knife,(and eat!) then make nice rectangles with crossed tine marks of the rest. Quick for a big batch.