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Shortbread

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Shortbread is a type of biscuit which is traditionally made from one part white sugar, two parts butter, and three parts oatmeal flour. The use of plain white (wheat) flour is common today, and other ingredients like ground rice or cornflour are sometimes added to alter the texture.

Left: Scottish shortbread fingers.

Shortbread is so named because of its crumbly texture (from an old meaning of the word short). The cause of this texture is its high fat content, provided by the butter. The short or crumbly texture is a result of the fact that the fat inhibits the formation of long protein (gluten) strands. The related word "shortening" refers to any fat that may be added to produce a short (crumbly) texture.

Shortbread is not to be confused with shortcake, which is similar to shortbread but can be made using vegetable fat instead of butter and always uses a chemical leavening agent such as baking powder, which gives it a different texture.

Shortbread biscuits are often associated with normal egg-based biscuits, but they hold their shape under pressure, making them ideal for packed meals.

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Shortbread is baked at a low temperature to avoid browning. When cooked, it is nearly white, or a light golden brown. They may be sprinkled with more sugar while cooling. It may even be crumbly before cooled, but will become firmer after cooling.

Left: Fully cooked shortbread rounds on a baking sheet.

Shortbread is traditionally formed into one of three shapes:

  • one large circle, which is divided into segments as soon as it is taken out of the oven ("Petticoat Tails", named from the French 'petits cotés', a pointed biscuit eaten with wine;
  • individual round biscuits ("Shortbread Rounds"); or
  • a thick (¾" or 2 cm) oblong slab cut into "fingers."

The stiff dough retains its shape well during cooking. The biscuits are often patterned, usually with the tines of a fork before cooking or with a springerle-type cookie mold. Shortbread is also sometimes shaped in hearts and other shapes for special occasions.

Shortbread is generally associated with and originated in Scotland, but due to its popularity it is also made in the remainder of the United Kingdom, and other countries like Denmark, Ireland and Sweden.

 

Shortbread Recipe Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups (180 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup (225 g) butter
  • 1/2 cup (115 g) sugar
 

Serves: 12

Time: 50 minutes

Recipe Cooking and Preparation Method

 
  1. Cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy.

  2. Sift the flour and salt into the mixture and work into the fat and sugar until completely amalgamated.

  3. Shape the dough into a ball and roll out to about ½ inch thick.

  4. Cut into squares or rectangles and prick the tops with a fork in two parallel lines.

  5. Bake at 275ºF/135ºC for 30 to 40 minutes or until the shortbread is lightly browned.

  6. Leave them on a cake rack to cool.

  7. Store in a cool place in an airtight container.

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