Sunday, December 15, 2013

Basic Scottish Shortbread

   Introducing the simplest, most versatile, and therefore the most crowd-pleasing cookie recipe you'll ever memorize: Basic Scottish Shortbread.

   It requires just  three common ingredients, a little time, and no complicated methods; and the variation possibilities are endless. I love this stuff. My youngest daughter does, too, as does a lady you all know and love... M. You know M, from that danged forest incident ? M, who recently challenged me about acknowledging my perfect age and gave me the phrase #furioiuslyhappy? M, who blogs at May I Have a Word? Yep, her. She and Jess have so much in common, besides my unending love and a mutual liking for shortbread. But today let's talk about shortbread.

   Shortbread is just plain delicious. Delicious and plain. Soothing. Tender. Almost crunchy, yet buttery, like a blank canvas of pleasure in your mouth. It is really good with a big, steamy cup of tea. It is decadent with toasted chopped pecans and turbinado dressing it up. Oatmeal added in actually makes it a filling snack. Shortbread always makes you feel homespun and British and sugar-conservative. Ladylike, even. Also? This super simple recipe doubles or triples extremely well, and the extra cookies will save in a lidded box for a million years. Assuming you or my daughter or M don't eat them.

   Shall we? Okay.

What You Need:

  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter
(I'm not kidding you. That is all you need for the basic dough, and the basic dough it wonderful!)

What You Do:
  • Sift together the flour and sugar.
  • Cut-in the butter until the mixture resembles crumbs (just as if you're beginning to make a pie crust, except that you never add a liquid).
  • Form the mixture into a ball and knead till smooth-ish. (This is not going to be silky smooth like pizza dough. It will remain a bit dry or crumbly. That's okay.)
  • Now, you get the choice to either form individual cookies, which is best with flavor variations, or make a classic shortbread disc. 
  • A shortbread disc is easy. Just pat the dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet or pan, finger-pressing it into a circle about 8 inches across. It will end up being about 1/4" thick. You can prick it here and there with a fork, in pretty designs, but you don't have to. You should, however, use a sharp knife to perforate the disc like a pizza. Do not separate the wedges. Flute, crimp, or ignore the outer edge however you like. I tend to go with what I call the "French Rustic" appearance with this and all dough-related issues in my life. Which is open for interpretation. (It's quite casual and only pretty to me.)
  • Bake at just 325 degrees, for about 25 minutes. When done, the edges will be slightly brown. 
  • Cut through the perforation lines again, this time separating the wedges. Remove these to a wire rack to cool.

Possible Variations:
  • Add 1/3 cup quick oats to the exact dough above, before baking of course. This is delicious! Possibly my personal favorite.
  • Alternately, add about that much flaked coconut. Also addictively good! You will probably end up adding some form of chocolate to this, out of sheer evolutionary force.
  • Add in some chopped pecans for a "Pecan Sandy" sort of taste, then sprinkle oven-fresh cookies with turbinado. Fancy schmancy! This one reminds me of my Grandma Stubbs.
  • Add 1/2 cup drained & dried maraschino cherries, plus a speck of red food coloring and a half a speck of nutmeg to the dough, then form into balls and flatten slightly before baking.
  • After baking, drizzle any of these variations with skinny little lines of melted chocolate.
  • Oooohhh!! It's Christmas! Add some holiday food coloring, colored sugars, and candies! Scottish Shortbread for Santa! Hint-hint, parents of toddlers: These cookies display individual bite wounds VERY well...  (wink wink)
  • Lemon shortbread! I am working on this variation for M. Maybe that one gets its own post later.

   With shortbread, there will be no rising on your counter top or shape shifting in the oven. There will rarely be trips to the store to buy what you need. Just a quick collection of pantry staples and some very basic cooking of your gorgeously simple ingredients. So, it's like manna. Manna from heaven. Unleavened, simple, nourishing, just sweet enough. Mysterious. Wonderful. My youngest and I even have a song we always used to sing when we made it, and here are the lyrics:

Basic Scottish shortbread, shortbread, shortbread!
Basic Scottish shortbread, shortbread, yum!
Bake it up and eat it, eat it, eat it!
Bake it up and eat it, shortbread, yum!

   We would always sing it with super pretentious fake British accents, with a little falsetto thrown in, because we don't really know what Scottish accents sound like, although it's doubtful we are spot-on with our British choice. You should try this. Also? Dance. Dance your heart out while you bake and nibble. You'll be glad you did.

   Merry Christmas! Thank you so much for stopping in, and go check out the other cookie recipes on Edie's fun link-up. (Click on the caption beneath that gorgeous, colorful photo there!) Here in Oklahoma we are anticipating another bitter winter storm, so a few days of yummy recipes to keep me busy sounds really nice.

I love you Jess!
I love you M!
I miss you both, you Shortbread Girls!


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